President Obama was embarrassed last night, The Fix notes: “With 61 percent of precincts reporting in Arkansas, Obama took 60 percent to 40 percent for [John] Wolfe. In Kentucky, with nearly all precincts reporting, 42.1 percent of Democratic primary voters opted for “uncommitted” rather than backing the president, who received 57.9 percent. Those results come two weeks to the day after Keith Judd, a convicted felon incarcerated in Texas, won 41 percent of the vote against Obama in the West Virginia primary.”
Certainly Obama will be his party’s nominee. He sure isn’t betting on winning Kentucky, West Virginia or Arkansas in the general election. But still.
For a sitting president to evoke such opposition in his own party tells us something about Obama’s problems, not just in limited regions of the country. (The Fix noted that significant opposition to Obama popped up in the New Hampshire and North Carolina primaries.)
The reason for this, as you might imagine, is that in burnishing his credentials with the left, Obama has hurt himself in the center, even within the Democratic Party. Josh Kraushaar writes:
Moderate Democratic groups and officials, meanwhile, privately fret about the party’s leftward drift and the Obama campaign’s embrace of an aggressively populist message. They’re disappointed that the administration didn’t take the lead advancing the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction proposal, they wish the administration’s focus was on growth over fairness, and they are frustrated with the persistent congressional gridlock. Third Way, the centrist Democratic think tank, has been generating analyses underscoring the need for Democrats to appeal to middle-of-the-road voters, to no avail. . . .
The [Newark Mayor Cory] Booker governing model, premised on bipartisanship and taking on ideological party factions, runs contrary in many ways to Obama’s record. It’s why Booker’s call for Obama to elevate the rhetoric drove Chicago batty: It was a stinging reminder that the candidate’s promise of a post-partisan approach in 2008 had given way to the reality of governing in a polarized Washington and the necessity of running a highly negative campaign against Romney.
Those centrist Democrats reside not only in Kentucky and Arkansas but also in swing states like Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania. These voters won’t jump ship to vote for a challenger until they get to feel comfortable with him, are satisfied he’s able to deal with our problems and have confidence he’s not ideologically extreme. Hence, you see Obama’s campaign to depict Romney as extreme and unfit for the presidency. (Unfortunately, the method chosen — going after Bain — just made things worse.) If Romney can reassure these voters, as Ronald Reagan did in 1980 and Bill Clinton did in 1992, he may well pull in a chunk of this segment of the electorate.
The favorite liberal media narratives are: Mitt Romney is prisoner of the right, and the right doesn’t really like him. These messages are patently contradictory and unsupported by polling or other data. In fact, Romney is the least conservative candidate the GOP had to choose from. However, because his policies are solidly in the mainstream of modern conservatism, and Obama is reviled by the right, he has nevertheless ginned up the base (with help from the inept Obama team). The real problem for Obama is not his left-wing base, to whom he has been throwing bouquets (red meat, actually). His worry should be that he’s in danger of losing the voters in the center, who are the most critical to his reelection.