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Former Va. senator Jim Webb announces his presidential run

The former secretary of the Navy under President Reagan quietly launched on his 2016 campaign website.

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    In this June 30, 2015 file photo, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb speaks in Baltimore. On Thursday, Webb announced his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.
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Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb announced his presidential campaign on Thursday, opening a long-shot bid against Hillary Rodham Clinton and a field of Democratic rivals for the party's nomination.

Webb, in an announcement posted on his campaign website, acknowledged he would face major hurdles but vowed to bring an outsider's voice to the 2016 race.

"I understand the odds, particularly in today's political climate, where fair debate is so often drowned out by huge sums of money. I know that more than one candidate in this process intends to raise at least a billion dollars," Webb wrote. But he said the nation "needs a fresh approach to solving the problems that confront us and too often unnecessarily divide us. We need to shake the hold of these shadow elites on our political process."

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Webb, 69, a decorated Vietnam veteran and former Navy secretary under President Ronald Reagan, surprised many Democrats when he became the first major figure in the party to form a presidential exploratory committee last November. He has outlined the roots of a campaign message that include helping working-class Americans compete in the economy, tackling campaign finance reform and preventing the U.S. from getting involved in foreign entanglements like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Webb's opposition to the Iraq War — his son Jimmy served in the war — played a central role in his surprise Senate election in 2006 against Republican Sen. George Allen. While he chose not to seek re-election after one term, his military and foreign policy credentials could allow him to become a debate stage foil to Clinton, who served as President Barack Obama's secretary of state.

Webb has said U.S. foreign policy has been "adrift" since the end of the Cold War and called for a new foreign policy doctrine that would outline the circumstances in which the U.S. would use military force.

Webb has made frequent trips to the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, but early polls show him trailing in a field dominated by Clinton that also includes Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

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