Having presided over a shellacking at the hands of the voters, President Barack Obama not only has to look forward to at least two years of dealing with resurgent Republicans, but also a challenge from his left flank as he runs for re-election in two years.
Hard as it may be to believe, many on the left are blaming the political tsunami of 2010 on President Obama’s failure to push even more liberal policies than he did. The stimulus package should have been $2 trillion, not a measly trillion dollars. Health care reform should have provided the public option. Cap and trade was not passed. Troops are still in Iraq and Afghanistan. Guantanamo is still open and holding terrorist detainees.
Whether this discontent from Obama’s port side will translate to a primary challenge is yet to be determined. But there is no shortage of candidates who may want to challenge President Obama should liberal discontent continue to rise.
Here are a few:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton was Barack Obama’s main primary opponent in 2008. Her being secretary of state is part of a strategy by President Obama, in the words of strategist Vito Corleone, to “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”
Would Clinton want to have another go at Obama? Certainly Bill Clinton, whose hatred of the president is barely concealed, would like to see it happen. If nothing else, Hillary might want to forestall an effort by Sarah Palin to be the first female president of the United States.
Governor-elect Jerry Brown
The fact that Jerry Brown, who is called by wags “Governor Moonbeam,” last time poorly ran California but was elected again to that post says a lot about the dysfunctional political culture of the most populous state in the union. Brown is not likely to solve the fiscal mess that California is in. That may not stop him from running for president again, something he has done several times in his long career.
Sen. Russ Feingold
Russ Feingold, upon the night of his defeat for re-election, referred to going on to “the next adventure” in his concession speech. Could that be a run for the presidency against Barack Obama? Feingold is a favorite of the left, someone who does not cloak his liberalism in nuance or concessions to common sense. In his own mind, the sting of being defeated for the U.S. Senate could be eased by a supposed election to the presidency two years hence.
Former Gov. Howard Dean
Howard Dean ran for president in 2004 with a campaign that had the characteristics more of a cult than that of a conventional political campaign. Though his earlier campaign flamed out after the famous screaming incident, there are plenty of former “Deaniacs” who dream of another crusade. Dean, whose tenure as chairman of the Democratic National Committee saw Democrat gains, is arrogant enough to think that maybe 2012 might be his year.
Of course, an insurgent campaign against a sitting president by a member of his own party has its perils. For one thing, it has not worked in living memory. Ask Gene McCarthy, Ronald Reagan, Teddy Kennedy or Pat Buchanan. Such an effort by a white candidate would also run the risk of alienating African Americans, who will support Barack Obama onto the end, mainly out of identity politics. Still, if Barack Obama is still unpopular and the economy still fragile this time in 2011, the temptation to “save the presidency” by taking out the president may prove too great.