September 26, 2022

Could Obama Have a Democratic Challenger?

Obama In GreyAlthough most of the media’s attention has been focused on the Republican fight for the 2012 presidential nomination, the Democratic Party also needs to choose its nominee. Given the current political landscape, there have been some rumblings about a potential challenger to President Obama. While a challenger within his own party is extremely unlikely, there is recent historical precedent of such a thing happening.

The first group that has expressed interest in seeing a Democratic challenger to the President is the left wing of the party. This group supported President Obama heavily, expecting to see a very progressive administration. Many of his policies, including the continuation of the “Bush tax cuts for the rich” as well as his aggressive foreign policy have displeased this group. Ohio representative Dennis Kucinich’s name has been mentioned and, after his defeat in his 2010 senate re-election campaign, some pundits have posed the possibility of Russ Feingold opposing Obama.

Alternately, the other wing in the Democratic Party which could support an alternate candidate is made up of people who are bothered by President Obama’s relatively low approval ratings. With Gallup polling showing the president to have higher disapproval than approval ratings, a dubious distinction which only Jimmy Carter has achieved in recent years, this wing of the party is rightfully concerned about the president’s ability to be re-elected. One of the leaders of this wing, former Clinton pollster Doug Schoen, has penned an op-ed calling for Hillary Clinton to replace Barack Obama on the Democratic ticket.

There are a few major hurdles to a Democratic challenger coming forth to oppose Obama. The weight of the Democratic Party, including their millions of dollars of “soft” money, is already pledged to him. He also remains relatively popular in his party with current polls showing 67 percent approval among self-identified conservative Democrats and higher with other Democrats. The other major procedural hurdle is that it is rapidly becoming too late for candidates to place themselves on primary ballots.

An alternate candidate would have a steep hill to climb, even if they could get over the other issues. Recent history shows that alternate candidates do poorly in primary elections. Pat Buchanan’s 1992 bid against George H. W. Bush failed, as did Ted Kennedy’s opposition to Carter in 1980 and Reagan’s attempt against Ford in 1976. In fact, the last time that a challenger toppled an incumbent for a party nomination was Eugene McCarthy who knocked LBJ out of the race in 1968. In all of these cases, the incumbent, or the challenger replacing the incumbent, lost the presidential election. With this in mind, Democrats can expect to run Barack Obama for president in 2012.


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