Jim Webb Refuses to Critique Hillary Clinton During Stop at Des Moines Register

The former senator says his decision about getting into the race will have a lot to do with how much money he can raise this month.

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Former U.S. Sen. and Vietnam war veteran Jim Webb (D-VA) speaks during a ceremony commemorating the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial April 30, 2015 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Jim Webb is a Marine. That doesn't mean he's eager to engage in any kind of combat—verbal or otherwise—with Hillary Clinton.

The former Virginia senator, who's exploring a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, showed zero inclination toward taking on his party's front-runner during a meeting Tuesday with Des Moines Register reporters and editors.

"In what areas do you think she's vulnerable?" asked the Register's Rekha Basu, an opinion columnist for Iowa's largest newspaper.

"That's for you to decide," he responded.

When Basu asked how he answers political pundits who say Clinton is her party's "inevitable nominee," Webb was equally blasé.

"I really don't look at it that way," he said. "My objective would be to get out and talk to people and have them make up their minds."

The hourlong meeting, primarily with members of the Register's editorial board, was held as Webb wrapped up a three-day visit to the state that in February will host the first presidential nomination balloting. Bloomberg was invited to attend the session as a Register polling and news partner.

The Vietnam War veteran and former secretary of the Navy said he plans to make a decision about running "by the end of the month." If he does run, he'll join independent U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley in announcing plans to challenge Clinton.

In a Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll conducted May 25-29, Webb received support from 2 percent of those likely to participate in Iowa's Democratic caucuses.

"I worry about where our country is and I believe that I've had a set of experiences that would allow me to be able to govern," he said.

Webb, 69, said his decision about getting into the race will have a lot to do with how much money he can raise this month.

"We need to be able to know that we can raise enough money to get out and do the travel and build the staff and the basic things you have to do," he said.

Asked where he would cut the federal budget, Webb offered no specifics, saying he would ask for a "bottom-up" review of all programs. "I'm not here with a laundry list," he said.

On trade, Webb took a position similar to Clinton's when it comes to the Trans-Pacific Partnership being debate by Congress. "I would have voted against fast-track to get the administration to be more transparent about what's in the TPP, and I would want to read it carefully before I'd support it," he said.

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