The midterm rout of Democrats immediately sparked debate over whether President Obama will face a primary challenge in 2012. Republican pollster Bill McInturff tried to fuel that speculation Thursday, saying that Obama will "more than likely" face competition from the left.
McInturff, speaking at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast, said his polling shows Obama has a problem on Afghanistan, because most in his party do not support the war. He said the rationale for someone like Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, who was defeated this week, would include issues such as Afghanistan, not closing Guantanamo Bay and the general sense that Obama "compromised too much."
McInturff didn't mention it, but Feingold voted against the financial regulation reform bill, saying it did not go far enough to rein in Wall Street. Still, Feingold has generally been an Obama ally. In his campaign he strongly defended his votes for the controversial health care reform and economic stimulus bills.
Conservatives may be indulging in wishful thinking. For one thing, the administration has said it will start withdrawing some U.S. troops from Afghanistan in July 2011. Even if that deadline slips, the war is highly likely to be de-escalating throughout 2012.
Meanwhile, Feingold and another left-of-Obama figure, former party chief and Vermont governor Howard Dean, are trying to disabuse the chattering class of the notion that they will take on their president.
Feingold set off talk when he said at the end of his concession speech, "It's on to the next fight. It's on to the next battle. It's on to 2012." But his spokesman, John Kraus, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Feingold has "no current plans" to run for anything. Kraus told Politico that Feingold has "no interest" in running against Obama. He dismissed the chatter as "simply Washington getting wee-wee'd up on the first day of new election cycle that is two years away."
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