‘Professional left’ not ready to back an Obama challenger

As angry as it might be, the professional left isn't ready to back a primary challenger to President Obama just yet.

Two high-profile liberals on Thursday said they are not interested in running against the president in 2012, and liberal bloggers say any challenge to Obama would be fraught with difficulty.

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“I haven't heard of a credible name that has been floated that would challenge President Obama,” said David Sirota, a prominent liberal blogger. “I haven't heard of that. I think it would be very difficult to do.”

Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos, who is also a columnist for The Hill, said he didn't think Obama would get a 2012 primary challenge "in a million years." In an e-mail, Moulitsas also said Obama shouldn't be challenged.

Still, some influential figures on the left, which erupted in fury this week at criticism White House press secretary Robert Gibbs made in an interview with The Hill, suggest a multitude of voices in New Hampshire and Iowa could be helpful to the party.

“I have always encouraged a diversity of voices in the primary process, within all parties and at all levels of government,” said Jane Hamsher, founder of Firedoglake.com, a leading liberal blog.

“It's a sign of a healthy democracy,” said Hamsher, who suggested this week that Gibbs’s comments could depress turnout in the November midterm elections for Congress.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), a frequent presidential candidate, both said Thursday they had no plans to challenge Obama.

Gibbs invoked Kucinich’s name in The Hill interview, saying some on the left wouldn’t be satisfied if the prominent progressive who has called for a Department of Peace were in the Oval Office.

But Kucinich told ABC he had no plans to challenge Obama in 2012, and he pressed Democrats to concentrate on coming together.

Challenges to sitting presidents have been uncommon in recent elections, but they are hardly unheard of.

President George H.W. Bush faced a primary challenge from conservative commentator Pat Buchanan in 1992 after Bush won scorn from the political right for breaking a pledge not to raise taxes.

After his election, President George W. Bush was determined to avoid the same fate.

Karl Rove, Bush’s chief political adviser, told The Hill on Thursday that the younger Bush was largely inoculated from intra-party challenges because he worked to make sure he “kept an open door to all elements of the party.”

Like Bill Clinton in 1996, the second president Bush did not face a meaningful primary challenge when he was up for reelection.


Rove, now a commentator on Fox News, said Obama’s advisers need to take steps on a daily basis to protect him so that he does not face a challenge from the left.

“The president's people ought to be doing things in a way that keeps from providing people reasons to challenge him,” Rove told The Hill.

Liberal commentators this week said they had plenty to complain about. They’re disappointed Obama has not closed the detention center at Guantanamo Bay despite his promise to do so. Most also oppose Obama’s handling of the Afghanistan war.

The left was disappointed Obama did not do more to achieve a public option in the health insurance bill, and they would like the president to do more to end the ban on gays serving openly in the military.

Sirota said liberals feel “100 percent” taken for granted by the Obama White House.

He and others on the left are worried Obama is taking a page from Clinton's playbook and using triangulation to move to the middle in advance of reelection.

Liberals are wary of some members of Obama’s inner circle, including Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who worked in the Clinton White House and is a former investment banker.

“This is an administration that is teeming with Clintonites and former corporate-connected people,” Sirota said.

Rove believes Obama has little to worry about it. In the end, he predicts, liberals will stick with Obama in 2012 in the primary and general elections.

“They'll grouse about it, they'll bitch and moan about it, but at the end of the day they will [vote for Obama],” Rove said.

This story was updated at 7:13 a.m.