Monday, September 12, 2011

Primary Musings

Let's face it, Obama's approval ratings in almost every nationwide poll, no matter how weighted toward his side of the political spectrum they may be, are in the toilet.  I'm not saying he's going to be a pushover in the 2012 election, because the man is a born speechifier and campaigner, but it's not looking good for POTUS.  Any pragmatist in the Democrat leadership has to know that losing the presidency as badly as they might will have huge repercussions for their positions in the House and Senate.  Anyone running for the Congress next year is going to everything they can do to tie their Democrat opponent to Obama any way they can.  And that impact could be even worse for them if a Republican president with a majority in the Senate restocks the current conservative majority in the  Supreme Court with younger Justices and then gets to pick a replacement for a more centrist or liberal Justice in the event that one dies.

So what do you do as a Democrat politician faced with the prospect of losing the Presidency by a wide margin, probably losing your majority in the Senate and getting into a deeper hold in the House, and possibly seeing any hope of getting a better hand in the courts go up in smoke?   I would love to be a fly on the wall during those discussions.  My guess is that at least a few people are talking about someone running in a Democrat primary against Obama.

Doing this might re-energize the Democrat base that swept Obama into the White House in 2008.  It would give the rank and file Democrat Party a way to distance itself from the failures and half-wins that have plagued the President, especially vulnerable members of the House and Senate who are up for re-election.

But who would run against President Obama?  Opposing Caesar and losing has only one outcome.  Would Hillary Clinton resign her position at State in order to take another swing?  She's already said she's not interested, but maybe she could be persuaded.  Others that come to mind are Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, but they could be perceived as being part of the problem and they are probably almost as polarizing in a general election as Obama himself.

One other prominent Democrat that might be able to make a run at it would be Senator Jim Webb of Virginia.  He's a Marine combat veteran, he's held a real job, he's photogenic, and he's got a pretty good center-left track record.  As to whether or not he'd run if approached, I haven't a clue.  But Senator Webb would definitely make an interesting candidate.

I'm sure I'm missing several viable candidates.  I'm sure there are Democrat governors and such that would appeal to the Democrat base enough to get the nomination without alienating that big squishy middle of the political spectrum as much as Obama appears to have done.

One thing that has to occur to decision makers in the Democrat Party, though, is the damage that a vicious primary fight would do to whoever wins it.  In order to appeal to the quite liberal Democratic base and get the nomination, both President Obama and anyone who runs against him would say and do things that could be used against them in a general election.  Also, if a primary is ugly enough, and I am under no illusions that both the President and any primary challengers would not go ugly early, it runs the risk of keeping a chunk of normally reliable voting block home in November.  If you feel that the guy on the ballot got there by dirty tricks against your primary candidate, you might just stay home on election day rather than hold your nose and vote for him.

One other evil thought is that the Democrats look at the economy bumping along at the bottom for the next few years, and think that it might be better to let Obama go down in flames, blame him for everything, and try again in 2016.  Not sure if someone in the DNC is that Machiavellian, but it might not be a bad strategy for someone cynical enough.

This is probably just navel gazing.   I doubt that anyone will want to run against Obama in a primary enough that they would take the chance.  It would definitely make 2012 more interesting, though.

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