Panicky Democrats Seeking Primary Challenger to Obama

Thursday, 15 Sep 2011 12:36 PM

By Martin Gould

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The move to challenge President Barack Obama in a Democratic primary is growing stronger by the day with House members openly pushing the case for an internal party battle.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who ran for the Democratic nomination in both 2004 and 2008 told CNN a challenge to Obama would “make him a better president.”

And Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio told The Hill that more and more Democrats believe that Obama needs to be challenged. “It’s a common refrain, and it’s certainly common in my district among Democrats,” he said. “They want the guy back that they voted for.”

DeFazio said there are many Democrats in the House who agree with him, but would not name names.

Even former Clinton adviser and Democratic strategist James Carville today called for the president to 'wake up' and 'panic.' Carville called on Obama to clean house, fire staff that's advising him and return to Democractic principles that got him elected.

"This is what I would say to President Barack Obama: The time has come to demand a plan of action that requires a complete change from the direction you are headed," Carville wrote in a CNN column. 

His advice: "Fire somebody. No — fire a lot of people."

And already activist Ralph Nader has started to organize a slate of Democrats who could challenge the president — although he believes Obama will win reelection. His contention is that such a challenge would  “dramatically expand a robust discussion within the Democratic Party and among progressive voters across the country.”

Nader and others to the left of the party don't think that Obama has done enough on the environment, labor and health care.

If challengers debate him in Iowa and New Hampshire, Nader said earlier this year,  “it is harder for him to say no,” Nader said. “His strategists can say, ‘Don’t fight it, Barack; use it, revel in it; you’re good on your feet.”

Kucinich and DeFazio, meanwhile, reflected the view of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders who said during the debt ceiling negotiations in July “It would be a good idea if President Obama faced some primary opposition.

“There are millions of Americans who are deeply disappointed in the president, who believe that with regard to Social Security and other things, he said one thing as a candidate and is doing something very much else as a president — who cannot believe how weak he has been for whatever reason in negotiating with Republicans,” Sanders, who caucuses with the Democrats, said.

“It would do this country a good deal of service if people started thinking about candidates out there to begin contrasting a progressive agenda as opposed to what Obama believes he’s doing.”

The biggest problem for the Democrats is finding someone to challenge the President. Kucinich, who faces an uphill battle to keep a seat due to redistricting in Ohio, made it clear he was not willing to run for a third time.
Others are wary at the thought of being seen as the person who brought down the first African American president and fear a backlash from black voters who overwhelmingly still support Obama.

The clear favorite of Democrats is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but she has ruled out a challenge. Last week she told ABC News the chances of her running for the presidency are “below zero.”

“One of the great things about being secretary of state is I am out of politics. I am not interested in being drawn back into it by anybody,” Clinton added.

Obama’s chances of being reelected in November next year are being seen as increasingly remote by many in his party as Republicans repeatedly out-maneuver him.

The left believes the White House has moved too far to the center in accommodating Republican demands such as the extension of the Bush tax cuts, spending reductions and entitlement reform.

“Democrats haven’t been Democrats,” John Campbell of Iowa’s United Steelworkers told the National Journal. “The president’s been too willing to compromise.

“He has yielded and yielded and yielded, and what has it given us?” Campbell added.

Obama’s poll numbers continue to plunge. A new Bloomberg poll showed just 29 percent said they would definitely vote for him next year, with 43 percent saying they would definitely vote for someone else.

And the party’s devastating election defeat in a strong Democratic New York special election on Tuesday only reinforced the feeling that his chances of serving a second term in the White House are receding fast.

Just two weeks ago pollster Pat Caddell predicted that if the Democrats lost the seat previously held by scandal-scarred Anthony Weiner, it would provide “the kind of earthquake that would start shaking up people.

“If the president keeps going down, the job situation gets worse, if we have more problems this fall, at some point you are going to have people who say it’s worth showing the flag, it is worth making the case,” Caddell said.

But Democrats faithful to Obama point to history to show that a serious challenger could weaken the president’s chances in 2012 even further. The re-election attempts of Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush were all undone by primary challenges, while Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush all won second terms after avoiding any serious internal party fight.

“I don’t think a primary would be healthy for the party nor our prospects in 2012.” House Progressive Caucus co-chairman Raul Grijalva said.



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