Jim Webb’s Democratic response to President Bush last night is drawing rave reviews–on the blogs, from television pundits and in the world of talk radio. “That response could do for Webb something akin to what Barack Obama’s 2004 convention speech did for the Illinois senator,” wrote The New Republic‘s Michael Crowley. Andrew Sullivan called Webb’s speech “the most effective Democratic response in the Bush years. He managed to bridge economic populism with military service and pride: a very potent combination.”

Some are even suggesting he run for President–or Veep. “I say he put himself in the veepstakes with his response,” blogged former American Prospect editor Mike Tomasky. “Why Can’t Our 2008 Contenders Talk Like Webb?” asked MYDD blogger Matt Stoller.

Since he arrived in DC, Webb has been a rock star. But it’s not because he tried to cultivate the Washington press corps or held glitzy fundraisers with lobbyists. It’s because he is the antithesis of the blow-dried, poll-tested, inherently cautious politicians who dominate so much of Washington. Certainly Webb has a number of shortcomings, which Bob Moser detailed in a Nation profile of him last October. Yet his popularity proves just how much the American people are yearning for authenticity, honesty and a healthy heaping of common sense, even if it comes in unconventional packaging.

Webb just became a Senator, so it’s highly unlikely he’ll run for higher office any time soon. But that doesn’t mean that the ever-expanding field of ’08 contenders shouldn’t pay attention to the lessons from his speech on Tuesday night.