- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 24, 2012


President Obama isn’t doing so well in some of his party primaries where a surprisingly large number of Democrats are giving him the thumbs down.

The national news media are paying little attention to the Democrats’ presidential primaries because Mr. Obama is assured of his nomination. But the large size of the anti-Obama vote - exposing deep unrest in his party’s political base - has shaken his campaign’s high command.

The latest explosions erupted Tuesday in the Kentucky and Arkansas primaries, which, of course, Mr. Obama won easily. But a stunning 42 percent of Kentucky Democrats voted for “uncommitted” on their ballots.

In yellow dog Democrat Arkansas, 42 percent voted for a little-known Tennessee lawyer, John Wolfe, over the president of the United States.

Two weeks ago in the West Virginia primary, Keith Judd, a convicted felon and now Texas prison inmate, got 41 percent of the vote.

Some smarty-pants political pundits who think they know everything say some of this is about race and that these states are firmly in the GOP column anyway.

“You will forgive me, I hope, a lack of excitement about the ‘story’ of the president’s weakness in these two states [i.e. Arkansas and Kentucky] and in other border states with large fossil-fuel energy industries and relatively few African-Americans, since I’ve been reading about it since the 2008 primaries,” Democratic strategist Ed Kilgore says in Wednesday’s Washington Monthly Political Animal blog.

But others think the Democrats’ sizable anti-Obama vote in the party primaries has much deeper implications for the election.

Such strong antipathy toward Mr. Obama at this end point in his trouble-plagued presidency is “an indicator of not-insignificant pockets of unrest within his party,” The Washington Post’s campaign trackers Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake write.

Racial factors “may be less of a problem for Obama than the broader cultural disconnect that many of these voters feel with the Democratic Party.” They also quote Democrats who point to growing grievances that many in their party have over the political direction Mr. Obama is taking the country.

“The most significant factor is the perception/reality the Obama administration has leaned toward the ultra-left,” says former Rep. Charles Stenholm, Texas Democrat.

That’s certainly true in the coal-rich Appalachian states where Mr. Obama’s zeal for eliminating coal as one of the fuels that run our country has triggered a political backlash against him and the Environmental Protection Agency, which is carrying out his anti-coal agenda.

These are states with large populations of low-income, blue-collar, “working class” Americans who have been hit hardest by Mr. Obama’s economic policies, and they do not like the national Democratic Party’s sharp lurch to the left on economic and cultural policies.

“In states like West Virginia and Oklahoma, it’s just that voters are down on national Democrats generally. I don’t believe it is due to race,” says former Rep. Martin Frost, Texas Democrat.

In the Democratic nominating process, data show that the president has been averaging 84.6 percent of the vote in states where voters are presented with an alternative to Mr. Obama (either for another candidate, a write-in line or simply “uncommitted”).

“In the five states where there was a named opponent, though, Obama’s share of the vote was 72.7 percent,” The Post said.

With all of the battleground state polls showing that the race between Mr. Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney is tighter than a drum, the president cannot afford to lose 20 percent to 30 percent of his party’s base.

But that’s what may be shaping up now in key states as the economy continues to slow, the stock market is in decline and high unemployment rates remain frozen.

For example, in North Carolina, which is a tossup, more than 20 percent of the Democrats checked off the primary ballot line for “uncommitted” instead of voting for Mr. Obama.

Mr. Obama won the state in 2008 with a razor-thin 0.4 percent of the vote by promising to lift its economy out of a deep recession. But if he loses anywhere near 20 percent of his base there in November, it could cost him the election.

The political environment in North Carolina, where Democrats will hold their national nominating convention this summer, is looking bleaker than ever.

Its 9.4 percent unemployment rate is one of the worst in the country, and many Democrats there are going to voice their disapproval by voting against Mr. Obama.

Speaking of battleground states, perhaps no state is more pivotal to the outcome of this year’s election than Florida - and Mr. Obama is sinking fast there.

A Quinnipiac University poll there shows Mr. Romney leading Mr. Obama by 6 percentage points among registered voters. Mr. Obama was leading by 7 points in March and was in a dead heat with his rival last month.

Now, with 8.7 percent unemployment in the state and the housing industry in the basement, Mr. Obama’s support is shrinking fast. The poll found that Mr. Romney was seen as better able to handle the economy by 50 percent to 40 percent.

With a little more than five months to go before Election Day, the country’s mood and the economic and political trend lines are turning against the president.

“President Obama is running for re-election with Americans feeling about as dissatisfied with the country and the economy as they were in 1992 when George H.W. Bush lost,” the Gallup Poll said in an election analysis last week.

The title of the Gallup report: “National Mood a Drag on Obama’s Re-Election Prospects.”

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.

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