When Jim Webb quit the Democratic presidential race on Oct. 20 amid low poll numbers and a minimal debate presence, the former Virginia senator left open the possibility he would return for a White House run in a different political guise. Now he appears to be edging closer to making that happen.
On Saturday morning, Webb used Twitter and his Facebook page to attack Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton for her handling of Libya during her time as secretary of state.
Webb's lengthy condemnation on Facebook said, "Clinton should be called to account for her inept leadership that brought about the chaos in Libya." The attack came just days before the end of the year, which his aides had previously told CNN would be a reasonable time for them to make a decision about an independent bid.
Since dropping out of the race for the Democratic nomination, Webb has continued to maintain his Webb2016 website, which he has updated with posts about the possibilities of an independent run. On Twitter, he and his fans have been promoting a #WebbNation hashtag.
A run by Webb could further complicate the already unpredictable 2016 election.
While observers typically have analyzed the prospect of a third-party or independent run by Republican front-runner Donald Trump - or even one from Bernie Sanders - Webb could still alter the dynamics of the race even with his smaller profile.
A recent CNN poll, for instance, forecast tight races between Clinton and several Republican contenders in hypothetical match-ups for the general election. Webb's campaign has said it would concentrate on mobilizing voters in the ideological middle, along with people who have become dissatisfied with politics.
In a tight race, even a small base of support could make him a factor. Ralph Nader, for instance, famously won only small percentages of the vote in many states in the 2000 presidential election, yet that arguably helped tip the Electoral College vote to then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush. Democratic Vice President Al Gore lost despite winning the popular vote.
Webb could also get a boost from the organizers of the general election debates, who are preparing for the possibility of three candidates onstage, albeit ones who thus far have managed to command far more support than Webb.
There is no ensuring that Webb would be a spoiler for Clinton even as he attacks her. Although he ran as a Democrat to serve in the Senate, he is a highly decorated Vietnam veteran who also served as President Reagan's Navy secretary. Even Saturday's attack echoed the talking points of Republican candidates and groups.
His public statements, meanwhile, have focused on economic populism and breaking the monopoly of the two-party system.
Despite the apparent escalation of his interest in an independent bid, history suggests he could toy with voters for quite some time. Webb missed his own self-imposed deadline for getting into the Democratic race, He disregarded conventional wisdom on political timing when he finally declared hours before the beginning of the July 4 holiday.
In addition, the earliest state deadline for submitting signatures for an independent presidential run is May 9 in Texas, according to Ballot Access News. Given that most filing deadlines occur in August, Webb's post-Christmas social activity could be another trial balloon.
Craig Crawford, a top aide on the small campaign, did not immediately return request for comment on Saturday on the prospect that Webb is planning an imminent return to the race, nor did a Clinton spokesman respond to the attack.