Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Potential Democratic presidential candidates for 2012

Even though a primary challenge to President Obama is unlikely in 2012, there are several Democrats who are probably at least considering a run. As President Obama’s approval rating continues to drop, some prominent Democrats may be tempted to throw their hats into the ring in an attempt to preserve Democratic control of the White House.

The most obvious potential candidate is Hillary Clinton, Obama’s chief rival for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. A number of progressives are displeased with Obama and have recently been voicing remorse that Clinton was not the nominee in 2008. Mrs. Clinton instead became President Obama’s secretary of state. Reportedly, she was behind Obama’s decision to authorize military action in Libya, which is currently recognized as one of the Obama Administration’s few foreign policy triumphs. In 2008, she lost the Georgia Democratic primary to Obama by more than two-to-one, receiving 31 percent of the vote to Obama’s 66 percent.

While Clinton is one of the few Democrats with the name recognition and support network in place to mount a last minute campaign, her position in the administration makes it unlikely that she would run. To challenge Obama, she would jeopardize her position in the State Department and, if Obama wins, would probably be out of the public view for the next four years. Clinton is more likely to sit out the 2012 elections and wait for more favorable conditions for Democrats in 2016, when she would also not have to face a sitting Democratic president.

Another possible challenger is former Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. McKinney, an Atlanta native, served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 2003. She was defeated in the 2002 Democratic primary, but re-elected in 2004. She lost another congressional primary to Hank Johnson in 2006. In 2007, she joined the Green Party and was its presidential candidate in 2008, garnering .12 percent of the popular vote and earning a sixth place finish. She was not on the ballot in Georgia.

McKinney is known for her association with conspiracy theories such as the 9/11 truth movement and the belief that the government covered up thousands of deaths during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She is perhaps best remembered for the 2006 incident in which she was accused of striking a capitol police officer. An anti-Israel activist, she was captured by the Israeli Navy in 2009 aboard a ship attempting to run the Israeli blockade of Gaza. She has also been critical of U.S. aid to the Libyan rebels.

McKinney is currently a member of the Green Party, but might be persuaded to rejoin the Democrats to mount a challenge against President Obama. She is a vocal opponent of Obama and has called him a “war criminal” in a speech that is available on Youtube. McKinney would also negate Obama’s use of the race card in the campaign, since she is also black. Many liberals are torn between the ideology of the Greens and the established power base of the Democrats so a McKinney campaign might be a serious challenge to Obama.

Two Virginia senators, Jim Webb and Mark Warner, also rate a mention as possible candidates. Both are one te

rm senators. Webb was elected in 2006 and Warner in 2008. Both men could be considered among the last moderate Democrats. Webb served as Ronald Reagan’s assistant secretary of defense and secretary of the navy before becoming an author and filmmaker. Warner was a popular one-term governor of Virginia. Last spring, Warner teamed up with Georgia’s Saxby Chambliss to push for spending cuts.

In spite of their moderate credentials, both men voted for unpopular programs such as Obamacare and the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, as well as voting against a repeal of Obamacare. Webb, whose term ends in 2013, has already announced that he will not seek reelection. In a Public Policy poll from July 2011, Webb’s approval rating was 45 percent (with 36 percent disapproving). Warner’s approval rating was slightly better at 54 percent (with 28 percent disapproving). Neither man is well known nationally and would have to enter the race quickly in order to spread their name and message.

A final potential candidate is former senator Russ Feingold. Feingold served as Wisconsin’s senator from 1993 until losing to Tea Party insurgent Ron Johnson in the 2010 Republican landslide. Feingold is best known his work on the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill. He has a voting record that most Democrats would admire. Feingold was the sole vote against the PATRIOT Act and voted against the Iraq War authorization. He also voted against the Bush tax cuts, TARP, and the Defense of Marriage Act. Feingold was also considered as a possible challenger to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker or a candidate for Wisconsin’s other senate seat. Unfortunately for Democrats, Feingold has indicated that he does not plan to run for any office in 2012.

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