Sen. Feingold's name gets floated for 2012 presidential primary challenge

After big losses for Democrats in Tuesday's midterm elections, Republican pollster Bill McInturff thinks President Obama will face a primary challenge from the left in 2012.

"He's going to look very, very different between now and June than he's looked the past two years," McInturff said of Obama on Thursday at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. "I think that a [Democratic] primary is more than likely."  

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As for who might challenge the president in 2012 — how about Sen. Russ Feingold, said McInturff.

"If I were Feingold and I was now unemployed," McInturff said. "I'd say, 'Did [Obama] close Guantanamo? No. He put 30,000 more troops in Afghanistan. I'm not for that.' He compromised too much."   

After losing his Senate seat Tuesday to Republican Ron Johnson, Feingold told supporters, "It’s on to the next battle. It’s on to 2012." 

McInturff said he interpreted that statement as a possible shot across Obama's bow. Others speculated he might seek Sen. Herb Kohl's (D-Wis.) seat in two years if Kohl retires.

Either way, McInturff said a potential Obama challenger has plenty to run on in 2012 and suggested the president would indeed be vulnerable to such a challenge. 

"It's not hard to imagine what I'd run on in a Democratic primary against Obama," he said. "The fact that I like and admire some of the things the president has done is probably a bad thing in a Democratic primary." 

The last sitting Democratic president to face a real primary challenge from the left was President Carter in 1980 when the late-Sen. Ted Kennedy waged a campaign against him. Kennedy took the challenge all the way to the Democratic convention before ceding the nomination to Carter.