Democrats do not forgive defeat very easily. In the week after his “shellacking” in the midterm elections, Democratic approval of Obama’s performance as president dropped from 88 percent to 81 percent in the Zogby Poll, bringing his overall approval down to 43 percent. When a president starts to shed members of his own party, a vicious cycle has set in which can lead to a primary challenge.
Not from Hillary. At least not yet. She is far too cautious and intertwined with the administration to be the first to move against Obama. Just as Bobby Kennedy needed a Eugene McCarthy to test the waters for a primary challenge to Lyndon Johnson in 1968, so Hillary Clinton will look to others to try out Obama’s vulnerability to a liberal challenge. As with Kennedy, if it works, she’ll probably jump in. If it doesn’t, she’ll stay on as secretary of state.
There are three possible contenders who might enter Democratic primaries against Obama: Russ Feingold, Dennis Kucinich and Jerry Brown.
Feingold, newly defeated for Senate from Wisconsin, has always been the body’s most liberal member. The author, with John McCain, of the campaign finance law, he has been consistent in opposing the wars both in Iraq and Afghanistan and has staked out a liberal position far to Obama’s left. As a former senator, he would bring gravitas to the battle, and as a defeated former senator, he doesn’t have a lot to lose.
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