Former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) dropped out of the Democratic presidential race on Tuesday but left open the possibility of running next year as an independent. Webb has been many things—decorated Vietnam vet, boxer, Navy secretary, author, senator—but for a few months in 2008 (until he took his own name out of consideration), he was also a popular choice to be Barack Obama's running mate. Webb, as the Wall Street Journalput it, was "the sort of Democrat who can offer strong defense credentials, as well as a centrist, pro-gun appeal to white voters in an upper South state."
And maybe that's where he went wrong. Seven years later, almost every individual floated as potential Republican or Democratic vice presidential choice in 2008 is either out of politics or on their way out. Consider John McCain's choices:
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal: Currently touting his strong tied-for-fifth-place showing in the Iowa polls.
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin: Resigned during her first term, now writing occasionally viral Facebook posts.
Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman: Retired to become a lobbyist.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty: Couldn't beat Michele Bachmann, now a lobbyist.
Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor: Lost his primary to this guy.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: Skiing, probably?
Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge: Running a global security firm.
Indiana Sen.Evan Bayh: Retired to become a lobbyist.
Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius: Resigned from her post as secretary of health and human services after a calamitous HealthCare.gov rollout.
Texas Rep. Chet Edwards: Lost his seat in 2010.
Delaware Sen. Joe Biden: It's complicated.
The only exception to the Curse of 2008 is then-Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who went on to replace Webb in the Senate and is currently considered a possible vice presidential candidate on the Democratic side. (Hillary Clinton was famously not considered, which perhaps explains her bright presidential prospects in 2016.)
The lesson, as always, is to never do anything ambitious.
Republican presidential contender Dr. Ben Carson has put his public campaign events on hold for two more weeks to go on book tour for his new tome "A More Perfect Union" and catch up on fundraising events.
The campaign has been careful to separate campaign events and the book tour, and doesn't want to classify the tour as related to the campaign in any way.
This week he is catching up on fundraising events and will be back on his book tour next week making stops in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa. So for the next two weeks, Carson won't be appearing at any public "campaign events."
Put another way: He hasn't held a campaign event since October 2, and he won't hold another until October 28.
National Review's Jim Geraghty asks the obvious question: "Why on earth would any serious candidate for president decide to stop campaigning at a moment like this for some book-signings and readings?" A better question might be, why start running a real campaign now? Carson has more or less been on a book tour for the last three years, releasing a handful of books in quick succession that have built up his name recognition among conservative voters and given him ample free media at places like Fox News. He's even continued to deliver paid speeches during the campaign.
It's unconventional, sure, but it has made him a lot of money and propelled him to near the top of the GOP field. You can't argue with the results.
Over a 10-minute stretch in Tuesday's Democratic presidential debate, Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—with an assist from former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley—threw down over gun control, a subject that Clinton has made a central part of her campaign over the last few weeks.
CNN moderator Anderson Cooper got things started by asking Sanders about his previous support from the National Rifle Association, and votes he cast against gun control legislation. Sanders pushed back hard:
Let's begin, Anderson, by understanding that Bernie Sanders has a D-minus voting record from the NRA. Let's also understand that back in 1988 when I first ran for the United States Congress—way back then—I told the gun owners of the people of Vermont and I told the people of Vermont, a state that has virtually no gun control, that I supported a ban on assault weapons. And over the years, I have strongly supported instant background checks, doing away with this terrible gun show loophole, and I think we've got to move aggressively at the federal level in dealing with straw-man purchases. Also, I believe, and I've fought for, to understand that there are thousands of people in this country today who are suicidal, who are homicidal, and who can't get the health care they need, the mental health care, because they don't have insurance, or they're too poor. I believe that everybody in this country who has a mental crisis has got to get mental counseling immediately.
But Cooper followed it up: "Do you want to shield gun companies from lawsuits?"
"Of course not," Sanders said.
This was a large and complicated bill. There were provisions in it that I think make sense. For example, do I think that a gun show in the state of Vermont that sells legally a gun to somebody, and that somebody goes out and does something crazy, that that gun shop owner should be held responsible? I don't. On the other hand, where you have manufacturers and where you have gun shops knowingly giving guns to criminals or aiding and abetting, of course we should take action.
Cooper then asked Clinton if Sanders was being tough enough on guns. She replied:
No, not at all. I think we have to look at the fact that we lose 90 people a day from gun violence. This has gone on too long, and it's time the entire country stood up against the NRA. The majority of our country supports background checks, and even the majority of gun owners do. Senator Sanders did vote five times against the Brady bill. Since it was passed, nearly 2 million illegal purchases have been prevented. He also did, as he said, vote for this immunity provision. I voted against it. I was in the Senate the same time. It wasn’t that complicated to me. It was pretty straightforward to me that he was going to give immunity to the only industry in America—everybody else has to be accountable, but not the gun manufacturers, and we need to be able to stand up and say enough of that, we're not gonna let it continue.
As the senator from a rural state, what I can tell Secretary Clinton is that all the shouting in the world is not gonna do what I would hope all of us want, which is to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have those guns, and end this horrible violence that we are seeing. I believe that there is a consensus in this country. A consensus that says we need to strengthen and expand instant background checks, do away with this gun show loophole, that we have to address the issue of mental health, that we have to deal with the straw-man purchasing issue, and that when we develop that consensus we can finally do something.
Forty-three years ago, moments before the final debate of his first ever political campaign, Bernie Sanders turned to one of his rivals for Vermont's governorship, Fred Hackett, and made an unusual proposal: What if they switched outfits? The Republican could take off his tie, don Sanders' ratty blazer, and mess up his hair. Bernie could borrow Hackett's suit. "I tried to convince Fred that a great historical moment was at hand—that tens of thousands of people would turn on their TV sets and there, right before their uncomprehending eyes, would be a new Fred Hackett," he recalled in an essay a few months later. "Fred didn't take my advice—which is probably why he lost the election." (Sanders, who was running on the third-party Liberty Union ticket, also lost the election.)
That scenario is unlikely to repeat itself on Tuesday, when Sanders faces off against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Democratic presidential field at the Wynn hotel and casino in Las Vegas. After four decades in politics, Sanders is as veteran a debater as they come—but is he any good at it?