Saturday, November 13, 2010

History suggests Obama badly needs a political survival strategy

The defeat of Russ Feingold in the November 2 election has unexpectedly provided the most uncompromisingly left-wing Democrat in the U.S. Senate with a new job opportunity—that of candidate for the presidency of the United States. Feingold hinted in his concession speech on election night that he might challenge Barack Obama in the Democratic primaries. “It’s on to 2012,” Feingold said, “and it is on to our next adventure.”

The next day, a spokesman said that Feingold had “no interest” in running for the presidency, but such a denial is meaningless. The scale of the Democratic Party’s defeat and the parlous condition of the country’s finances inevitably raise the specter of a challenge to a first-term president from within his own party. Such challenges have been part of the political landscape for the past half-century. Eight presidents since 1960 have run for re-election. Four of them have had to fight off a significant primary opponent whose key message was that the president had betrayed his party’s core principles. In each case, the challenge preceded the president’s eventual ouster in the general election.

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