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Memo to the left: Hands off Obama

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By Colbert I. King
Friday, December 10, 2010; 7:05 PM

Since the Democratic Party's "shellacking" in last month's midterm elections, speculation has been growing about a possible 2012 presidential primary challenge to President Obama launched by his party's disgruntled left. Talk of a primary challenge has only ratcheted up following Obama's announcement of the tax deal he cut this week with congressional Republicans.

Warning: If the Democratic left does to Obama in 2012 what it did to incumbent President Carter in 1980 via Ted Kennedy's damaging Democratic presidential primary challenge - or what the Republican right did to incumbent President George H.W. Bush in 1992 with Pat Buchanan's entry into the GOP primary - the Democratic party as a whole will find itself paying a steep price for years to come.

That's a promise, not a threat.

It's a pretty safe bet that Obama could beat back a contender or contenders for the 2012 Democratic Party nomination. But, as with the experiences of Carter and Bush in their damaging primary struggles, Obama would be forced to devote organization, energy and money to winning renomination, three precious resources best reserved for a general election.

It's unlikely Obama could emerge from a time-consuming and costly primary fight strong enough to run a competitive race against a Republican Party that is expected to be energized, united and determined to take back the White House in 2012.

Republicans would have the Democratic left to thank for that.

Make no mistake, however: If the left costs Obama his presidency in 2012, the Democratic Party as a whole will lose out.

Sabotage the nation's first black president and the Democratic Party might as well bid farewell to its most loyal base of supporters: African Americans.

In 2008, the turnout for young black eligible voters was higher than that of young eligible voters of any other racial or ethnic group, according to the Pew Research Center. Consider them gone in future congressional and presidential elections if the left dooms Obama in 2012.

The 2 million more blacks who voted in 2008 than in 2004 because of Barack Obama? Say bye-bye to them, too. As for African American women, the group with the highest voter turnout rate in the 2008 presidential election? Don't even ask.

And why should they stay with a Democratic Party that turns tail on a president who's trying to lead a fractious country through one of roughest patches in its history?

Obama's racially and ethnically diverse supporters know full well - even if the Democratic left wishes to forget - that if John McCain and Sarah Palin were in the White House instead of Obama and Joe Biden, there would be no laws or programs on the books that:


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