The Washington Post

Republicans smell blood in presidential race

President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House, Monday, Aug. 8, 2011, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Two-thirds of self identified Republicans now support the idea of a primary challenge to Obama, according to new data from the Washington Post and Pew Research Center. That’s an 11-point decline since November. Among “conservative Republicans” the drop-off is particularly steep, as 67 percent now back an Obama primary challenge, down from 80 percent who said the same last fall.

Over that time, Obama has weathered a series of difficult economic blows, the latest being the downgrading of American credit by Standard & Poor’s last Friday. In key swing states like Pennsylvania and Florida, the sagging economy has weakened Obama and put him in a dead heat with the leading GOP candidate, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

Overall, 49 percent of Americans want Obama to face a primary challenge — not a great number, but a dip from nine months ago when 56 percent said the same.

While Democrats have complained loudly that Obama has given away too much in compromises with Republicans on the Bush tax cuts, the federal budget and the debt ceiling, there is little evidence of erosion within his base.

Thirty-two percent of self-identified Democrats said they would like to see Obama challenged, a statistically insignificant change from last fall.

Independents, too, remain largely unchanged on the question. Fifty-four percent of independents now believe Obama should be challenged; 57 percent thought so last November.

Obama and his political team have spent considerable time wooing independents — both rhetorically and from a policy perspective — since Democratic losses in the 2010 midterm elections.

Polls are, of course a snapshot in time and are rightly taken cum grano salis. But, it’s not hard to read between the data points on this particular survey.

The data reflects a growing sense among Republicans that if they nominate someone who can keep the focus on Obama during the general election, they can win the race. (Yes, that sound like an obvious point, but even nine months ago many Republican strategists were pessimistic about any of their potential nominees beating the president.)

While growing Republican optimism isn’t good news for Obama — or maybe it is? — the poll also confirms that, despite the loud complaints from some elements of the liberal left, there is no groundswell to see him challenged in a primary in 2012.

As we’ve written many times before, if there was any real evidence that Obama could be beaten in a primary, we would have seen a serious candidate at least dipping his or her toes in the water by now. That no one has stepped forward suggests that they see the same reality as is reflected in this poll — that Obama is not truly vulnerable to a primary challenge from his left.

So, Obama almost certainly won’t be primaried. Nothing new there. That Republicans are increasingly happy that they will face Obama in November 2012, however, is a major change from even a few months ago.

Democrats, labor fall short in Wisconsin: Democrats won two of six recall elections in the Wisconsin state Senate on Tuesday, unseating a pair of incumbents who supported Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) proposal to strip public employee unions of collective bargaining rights, but falling just short of retaking the majority in the chamber.

Even as they sustained losses, it was a pretty good night for Republicans, who lost only a district that was pretty heavily Democratic (state Sen. Dan Kapanke) and a district where the incumbent had notable personal issues (state Sen. Randy Hopper).

The GOP withstood challenges against two other top-targeted state senators and now maintains a 17-to-16 edge in the chamber. Republicans also like their chances of unseating Democratic state Sen. Jim Holperin in next week’s recall.

As The Fix’s Rachel Weiner notes in her recap, this is the second time that Republicans have narrowly withstood a concerted effort to send a message about Walker’s governance. They also kept hold of a state Supreme Court seat amidst a barrage of Democratic and labor efforts in April.

Meanwhile, on the eve of the results Tuesday, Walker signed the state’s new GOP-drafted redistricting bill into law, which could help the GOP cement its majority in the state Senate in 2012.

Pro-Obamacare group goes up with ads in Iowa: A new nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting Obama’s health care bill is going up with ads in Iowa.

The 501(c)(3) group Know Your Care will be running the TV and online ads Wednesday through Sunday, as the political world is focused on the debate in Iowa on Thursday night and then the Ames Straw Poll on Saturday.

The ad focuses on the owner of a small bagel bakery and how the health care bill provided him with a tax credit and allowed him to get all of his employees insured.

A source at Know Your Care said the buy was about $50,000.

Know Your Care is affiliated with the 501(c)(4) Protect Your Care, which will be organizing messaging around the effort as well.

Huckabee leaning towards Cain?: Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee will be back in the state he won in 2008, and appears to be giving a nod toward businessman Herman Cain’s candidacy.

Huckabee will play bass guitar behind Cain’s gospel vocals at the straw poll in Iowa, where Cain hopes to build on what had been his early momentum in the presidential race — just as Huckabee did in 2008. And Cain will later appear on Huckabee’s TV show.

Huckabee remains neutral in the presidential race, and the collaboration doesn’t appear to rise to the level of an endorsement, but parallels have been drawn between the two men’s campaigns.

Anti-incumbent, not anti-my-incumbent: Despite Congress having record-low approval numbers, people seem pretty willing to send their own member of Congress back for two more years.

According to a new USA Today/Gallup poll, 54 percent of people said their own member of Congress deserves reelection, versus 34 percent who say he or she doesn’t.

That’s about on-par with what it has been over the last five years. The number saying their member deserved another term actually dipped below 50 percent twice last year.

This is something we often see in polling; even as people despise Congress, they often will stand by their own member, separating him or her from the country’s larger problems.

Huntsman’s big surprise: Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman’s presidential campaign has teased a “major announcement” for Wednesday morning in Florida.

One thing we know: it’s not the endorsement of former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R).

Politico’s Jonathan Martin, though, suggests Jeb Bush Jr. may be backing Huntsman. It’s not clear, though, if that would rise to the level of a “major” announcement.


Former congressman Chris Shays (R) is staffing up for a run at Connecticut’s open Senate seat.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has tapped Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) for his three members of the so-called “super committee” picking new cuts for the debt ceiling deal. Murray will be a co-chairwoman.

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) sounds like he will sign the state’s redistricting maps into law, including a congressional map that does little to target GOP Reps. David McKinley and Shelley Moore Capito. Democrats controlled the redistricting process in the state.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signs his state’s GOP-drafted redistricting bill into law. The plan draws Democratic Reps. Sandy Levin and Gary Peters together and shores up Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R).

The chairman of the Iowa tea party endorses Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) for president.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) potential presidential campaign has seven super PAC’s supporting it.


The Perry Texans know” — Dan Balz, Washington Post

Super PACs’ new playground: 2012” — Ken Vogel, Politico


The Take: The Rick Perry that Texans know

Can Ron Paul win it all in Iowa?

Why Bachmann is no Sarah Palin, Part 2


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