The Democratic primary debates are the only chance for the second tier of candidates---Martin O'Malley, Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb---to get on the radar in an election that is mostly seen in the press as a Bernie Sanders vs. Hillary Clinton stand-off. It's hard to declare a winner halfway through the debate, but it's already clear who the major loser is: Jim Webb. He was already struggling in a campaign that is defined by the two leading candidates competing to be viewed as the most progressive, but he made it worse during this debate by coming across at obtuse and, at times petulant.
Webb spent much of the debate whining about not getting as much attention as the front-runners, even though moderator Anderson Cooper reminded him that whining takes up precious time. He seemed to think that his comfort with Republicans was an asset, bragging about working for the Reagan administration and how he has "a record of working across the political aisle." In previous elections, that might have been a smart strategy, but not in a year when Republicans are falling apart so badly that even David Brooks has to admit it.
But where he really fell apart was on the issue of racial justice. When Cooper asked him about his previous claims that affirmative action is "state-sponsored racism," Webb thought it wise to opine on his elaborate theories on race, arguing that it's cool for black people but that he opposes "diversity programs that include everyone, quote, 'of color,'" as if racism only counts if it's a black-white thing. When asked about the Black Lives Matter movement, all the other candidates aligned themselves with the movement and offered solid policy ideas. Webb punted, however, telling a lengthy story about how he helped one man, who happened to be black, clear his name after a murder conviction. A nice story, but he totally ignored the systematic issues that Black Lives Matter exists to address.
Jim Webb did help everyone else look better by comparison. That's not nothing, but probably not why he thought it was a good idea to run for president.