A Challenge to Obama?

Up until last week, the consensus was that the President would run for reelection unopposed by any member of his own party.  In the wake of last week’s election results, there’s been chatter, nothing really substantive at this point, but chatter that there may be a primary challenge to the President, or at least a third party bid for the White House in 2012.

The two most popular names are New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and freshly-defeated Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold.  For years, speculation has abounded that Bloomberg would run for the Presidency.  In 2008, with Obama and McCain squaring off, it looked like both parties had nominated moderates.  Bloomberg concluded, correctly, that he could not have won against either, as his appeal would be to that very center that the two major party candidates was already covered.  Now, Obama is more widely (though incorrectly) perceived as a lefty liberal.  And, given the success of tea party candidates in this past electoral cycle, at least in their primaries, at this point, there’s a plausible chance of probability that Sarah Palin could conceivably triumph in a primary contest against, say, Mitt Romney or Mitch Daniels.

If Sarah Palin (extreme right) were to face Barack Obama (perceived extreme left), that previously crowded middle would suddenly look rather vacant for Mike Bloomberg.  His final mayoral term expires in 2013.  Also, to note, Bloomberg is the tenth richest man in the country, with assets estimated at $18 billion.

Feingold also has the potential to wreak havoc on the President’s reelection plans.  Feingold’s an iconic liberal, arguably the inheritor to Teddy Kennedy’s Senatorial legacy, and a hero to many on the left.  And for as much as the American electorate is under the impression that the President is far left of center, that’s news to many liberals.  In his concession speech last week, Feingold said: ‘It’s on to the next fight. It’s on to the next battle. It’s on to 2012!’

Now, this is subject to a lot of interpretation.  It could indicate that he’ll make a run for the White House.  It could mean that he might run again for the Senate in 2012.  It could mean that he’ll work to correct the electoral disaster that took place last week.  It could have been one of those crazy campaign moments where everyone’s exhausted and people just aren’t thinking about what they’re saying at any given moment.  It could mean a lot of things.  Feingold’s press secretary said that the Senator has ‘no current plans to run for anything.’  In politics, any statement that includes the word ‘current’ is basically a cue so as to indicate: ‘Check back later.’

But, for all the speculation, I don’t think that either man will run.  Bloomberg, a gay friendly, anti-gun, pro-choice, pro-immigrant, fiscal conservative, nominally Republican Jew that’s also been a Democrat, could be in a position to run should an extreme right winger take the GOP nomination.  I like Mike, but the man’s a bag of political contradictions that, at best, would confuse the hell out of the American public.  Also given the fact that Meg Whitman just spent north of $150 million of her own money to lose, and lose big, I doubt that Bloomberg will blow his hard earned cash to make a similar failed bid.  I don’t think he can win.  And I think he recognizes that.  And I don’t think Feingold can win either.  Running to the left of Obama?  That’s like a kamikaze mission.  He’s too smart not to recognize that.

And for all the reasons I outlined above, there’s one reason that I don’t think either man will run in 2012.  For as much as they may be unhappy with the President, they recognize that they can’t win, and they recognize that their presence in the race would serve only to serve up a victory to the GOP by depriving the President of much needed votes from the center and the left.  So, for as amusing as it is to think about it, don’t count on it.

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