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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Democratic Divides

Josh Kraushaar writes at National Journal that Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s  criticism of the Obama campaign’s attacks on private equity exposed the tension between Democratic moderates and liberals:

Conversations with liberal activists and labor officials reveal an unmistakable hostility toward the pro-business, free-trade, free-market philosophy that was in vogue during the second half of the Clinton administration. Former White House Chief of Staff William Daley, who tried to steer the Obama administration in a more centrist direction, is the subject of particular derision. Discussion of entitlement reforms, at the heart of the GOP governing agenda, is a nonstarter. The fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats are now nearly extinct on Capitol Hill.
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.
“There are not a lot of moderates left in the Democratic Party, and Cory is one of the few of them left,” said former Democratic Rep. Artur Davis, an early Obama ally who has become increasingly estranged from the party. “I would like to think Cory speaks for a lot of voters in the Democratic Party, but sadly he doesn’t speak for a lot of Democratic operatives within the party. This isn’t Bill Clinton’s Democratic Party anymore.”

At The Washington Post, Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blakewrite about Obama's showings in yesterday's primaries, where "Undecided" won 42% in Kentucky, and an obscure Tennessee lawyer named John Wolfe won 41% in Arkansas.
Obama under-performs a generic Democratic candidate in Appalachia (Kentucky and West Virginia) and in some portions of the South. Of course, we knew that after the 2008 election; just check out this terrific map highlighting counties that went more Republican in 2008 than in 2004.
While race is clearly an element of the opposition among some Democrats in these regions, it’s far from the only factor. Unhappiness with the policies his administration has pursued — particularly with regards to environmental standards — and a distaste with the national Democratic Party also fuel the discontent, according to politicians and strategists in these states.
North Carolina could be tougher sledding for Obama than we might have thought. Remember that Obama lost 21 percent of the vote in the North Carolina primary to “uncommitted” and that, outside of the Democratic Research Triangle, there are lots and lots of rural, culturally conservative voters who have a fair amount in common with people in Arkansas and Kentucky. (The same goes on Southeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.) Remember too that in the best year for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996, Obama carried the Tar Heel State by just 0.4 percent in 2008. What does that tell us? He doesn’t have much of a margin for error in November in that state.