Progressives consider 2012 primary challenge to Obama

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Reports are surfacing that progressive Democrats might run a primary challenge to President Barack Obama in 2012, an indication that they’re not too happy with his recent compromise with the GOP on the Bush tax cuts, among other things.

The left-wing blogosphere has been blowing up with rumors of who might challenge Obama in 2012, with some ridiculous possibilities and some more plausible ones being bandied about. Even The New York Times reported Wednesday that former presidential candidate Howard Dean would appear to be the front-running liberal to take on the president.

While the idea may be far-fetched, it is being discussed with some seriousness.

Massachusetts Democrat Michael Capuano said Obama “may or may not be” the Democrats’ best candidate for president in 2012.

“I don’t live in an ivory tower,” Capuano said. “I have to pick the best amongst those people who are running, and it may or may not be President Barack Obama’s reelection.”

New York Democratic Rep. Joseph Crowley said it’s “premature” to say whether Obama should get challenged in a primary.

MSNBC liberal commentator Keith Olbermann even hinted at a 2012 primary on “Countdown” Tuesday night.

“It is not disloyalty to remind the president that he was elected by people to whom he had given a clear outline of what he would do for them, and if he does not steer out of the skid of what he is doing to them, he will not only not be re-elected, he may not even be re-nominated,” Olbermann said in his 10-minute “Special Comment” on Obama’s tax cut compromise.

In addition to Dean, whose name has popped up almost everywhere as the go-to-guy to challenge Obama from the left, a blogger on the left-wing blog The Daily Kos suggested former Vice President Al Gore, outgoing Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold and superstar actor George Clooney as other possible alternatives to challenge Obama.

About Gore, the Kos blogger wrote: “His credibility has gone way up since ‘An Inconvenient Truth.’ I think he has the chops to win an election and also be a great president. The only downside is a sex scandal in Portland that would come to heavy scrutiny were he to challenge Obama.”

Clooney, the Kos blogger wrote, is a “great progressive” with the “speaking skills and presidential air” a president needs.

Robert Kuttner, co-founder of The American Prospect, vilified Obama in a Huffington Post column, saying he has confirmed progressives’ “worst fears” since the midterm elections. Kuttner named Dean, Feingold and outgoing North Dakota Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan as potential challengers.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s name has also floated through the headlines as a primary challenger, too, but she’s shot down those rumors.

Even if someone were to challenge Obama from the left, it wouldn’t necessarily mean they were trying to win against him. In the Washington Post, Tikkun magazine editor Michael Lerner argued that a primary might be a “real way to save the Obama presidency.”

Lerner said a primary opponent would force Obama back to the far left from the center, pressuring him to take “much more progressive positions and make him a more viable 2012 candidate.”

In the most recent incident of an incumbent president facing a primary challenger, commentator Pat Buchanan made a strong showing against then-President George H.W. Bush in 1992, challenging Bush from his right. Buchanan ultimately ended up dropping out of the race and throwing his support behind Bush. Bush went on to lose the general election to Bill Clinton.