Little attention is being paid by the national news media to the Democrats’ presidential primaries because 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 came in Tuesday’s Kentucky and Arkansas primaries which of course he won easily. But a stunning 42 percent of Kentucky Democrats voted for “uncommitted” on their ballot.
And 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,” says Democratic strategist Ed Kilgore in Wednesday’s Washington Monthly Political Animal blog.
But others think the Democrats’ sizeable anti-Obama vote in the party primaries has much deeper implications for the 2012 elections.
Such strong antipathy toward Obama at this end point in his trouble-plagued presidency is “an indicator of not-insignificant pockets of unrest within his party,” writes The Washington Post’s campaign trackers Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake.
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.” And they quote Democrats who point to growing grievances that many in their party have over the political direction Obama is taking the country.
“The most significant factor is the perception/reality the Obama administration has leaned toward the ultra-left,” says former Democratic Congressman Charles Stenholm of Texas.
That’s certainly true in the coal-rich Appalachia states where Obama’s zeal for eliminating coal as one of the fuels that run our country has triggered a political backlash at him and the Environmental Protection Agency that 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 Obama’s economic policies. And they do not like the national Democratic party’s sharp lurch to the left on both 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 Congressman Martin Frost, Democrat of Texas.
So far in the Democratic nominating process, the voting data shows that the president was averaging 84.6 percent of the vote in those states where voters were presented with an alternative to Obama (either for another candidate, a write-in line, or simply voting “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 Obama and former governor Mitt Romney is tighter than a drum, the president cannot afford to lose 20 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 down, the stock market is in decline and high unemployment rates remain frozen.
For example, in North Carolina, which is a tossup right now, over 20 percent of the Democrats checked off the primary ballot line for “uncommitted” instead of voting for Obama.
Obama won the state in 2008 with just a razor-thin 0.4 percent of the vote by promising to lift its economy out of a deep recession. But if he were to lose anywhere near 20 percent of his base there in November, it could cost him the election.
And 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 Obama.
Speaking of battleground states, perhaps no state is more pivotal to the outcome of this year’s elections than Florida. And Obama is sinking fast there.
A new Quinnipiac University poll there shows Romney leading Obama by six points among registered voters. Obama was leading by seven 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, Obama’s support is shrinking fast. The poll found that 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 titled of the Gallup report: “National Mood a Drag on Obama’s Re-Election Prospects.”
Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.