Howard Dean Explains To Democrats Why Primarying Obama Is a Bad Idea

Lately there has been a lot of talk in liberal circles about mounting a primary challenge to President Obama in 2012, but on CBS’ Face The Nation today, Howard Dean explained why primarying Obama is a terrible idea, “The history of people running against Presidents in their own party as the challenger, you lose and then the President is weakened and loses.”

Here is the video:

When host Bob Schieffer asked Dean about the possibility of Obama facing a primary challenge in 2012, the former DNC Chair explained why this would not be a good thing for the Democratic Party, “I don’t think he’s going to face an opponent in the democratic primary. I think that would be bad thing for the country and I think it would be a bad thing for the Democratic Party. The history of people running against Presidents in their own party as the challenger, you lose and then the President is weakened and loses. Now the President has done some things that I think are terrific. This is not one of them. But I– I think he will not get an opponent.”

Dean is correct. Recent history shows that incumbent presidents are almost certainly dead men walking in the general election if they have to fend off a tough primary challenger. In 1992, President George HW Bush had to tussle Pat Buchanan. This was a primary that weakened an already weak incumbent and blew the door wide open for Bill Clinton to roll into the White House. The most famous example is the bloody primary between Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy in 1980, which savaged Jimmy Carter, but you can also go as far back as 1968 with Eugene McCarthy’s strong showing against President Lyndon Johnson in New Hampshire that lead to Johnson deciding not to seek another term in office.

Primary challengers to incumbent presidents only serve to weaken the party and the president. It is a doomsday device that blows up the president’s party. For those on the far left who want to primary Obama, a more rational question is who would challenge him? The talk of Sen. Bernie Sanders challenging Obama is nonsense, because Sanders is not even a member of the Democratic Party. He is an Independent socialist, and no a third party run is not in his future. Contrary to the dreams of the left Sanders has a good relationship with Obama and the White House. He is not a frequent administration critic. In fact, he was endorsed by Obama in 2008.

Sen. Al Franken owes his Senate seat to Obama being on the ticket, and all the help the Obama operation gave his campaign during the recount. Obama campaigned hard for Franken, and the Minnesota senator is not going to forget that. After these two names the bench gets thin pretty quickly. Hillary Clinton is a giant no. Evan Bayh is too conservative for the liberals. The only possibility is that someone like Rep. Dennis Kucinich runs again in order to provide the president with token primary opposition.

Later in the Face The Nation discussion Dean gave his thoughts on why the tax cut deal is a good political move for Obama, “Well, I mean, the– the– this is a– already on down the track. I mean, it’s–you know, once you make the offer and you come to the deal, it’s going to be pretty hard for the President to pull back and then change his mind in the midstream. The truth is I don’t think this is all that bad for the President politically because he– he is going to be seen as acting presidential and bringing both sides together and all that stuff. The thing that bothers me about it is we have yet to deal with the biggest problem that is facing this country, which is the size of the deficit and nobody is doing anything about it. If you just keep it– if you keep doing what people like, which is cutting their taxes, you’re going to have a bigger deficit and we’re going to be weaker in the long term and I– I just don’t see how that contributes to the long-term future of the country.”

Dean is right about the deficit. Everyone campaigned on it then after the election promptly returned to the business of spending money, so much for the fiscal conservatism of the Tea Party. Politically after the furor over this tax cut deal dies down, this will not hurt Obama at all. How many Americans are really NOT going to vote for Obama because he cut their taxes? Even those on the left who are ready to throw Obama out of office right now are going to benefit from the tax cut.

A poor economy, not the tax cut, is Obama’s biggest 2012 threat. I can see being opposed to the tax cut deal based on principle, but no Democrat who could actually damage Obama in a primary will run against him. Everybody understands the consequences of a tough primary, and no Democrat wants their party to lose the White House in 2012.

19 Replies to “Howard Dean Explains To Democrats Why Primarying Obama Is a Bad Idea”

  1. I agree with Dean and I agree completely with what Jason has written in this article.
    Dems lose big time if they try to primary Obama and in the end they risk losing the Presidency itself and for what? I don’t see a better tax deal to be made. The repubs will do nothing rather than give up the millionaire tax cuts that they love so much. It is their line in the sand. So no deal. The other option is to let all tax’s expire and then try to get a stand alone tax cut just for middle class. Well, that didn’t pass the Senate earlier when it was tried and does anyone really think that the new Republican House is going to bring That to the floor?
    So, the way I see it right now, is that it is This or it is nothing. Sure progressives are pissed and that Might be a problem in 2012. No deal though will hurt a lot of people in the pocket book, and perhaps hurt him even more in 2012.
    Running a primary against a sitting president of Your party is political suicide and don’t think the republicans wouldn’t be laughing their butts off over the possibility.

  2. The presidents done. Capitulating to the republicans alienated his base for the final time. 2012 must be about a national public works program that will put the estimated 15 million who have been out of work because of this recession employed in addressing the crumbling infrastructure in the nation.

  3. I disagree I think a well-placed challenger can be helpful to Obama think about it Obama could talk about what he has done in the past four years. Obama could highlight his accomplishments in office all while chipping away at the GOP platform without actually having to confront the winner of the GOP nomination process. In fact this would give Obama 6 months to tout his time in office before he has to face the lies and misinformation machine of Fox unnews.

  4. Toby, I’m not sure if you are advocating a republican president or not, but lets face it, A republican president will do nothing for the 15 million you refer to. Why? Beucase the corporations that own the republicans will not hire any of them and the republicans do not want to spend a penny on them

    I think Obama can pull through this simply because of the way the republicans in the house and senate are going to act for the next 2 years.

    Although I wouldnt mind Dennis Kucinich being president

  5. Dennis Kucinich is too strong an adversary. However you could run the entire dem congress minus Kucinich against Obama and he would come out on top.

    Everyone knows the dems congress’s game. And everyone knows they are worthless. The odds say they will come around by 2012. The fear of republican rule has to do something to these thick sloths and prompt them to support the pres. But to be honest I fear that statement might not be true

    Obama needs to be vocal on what he has done as he does them. Because the republicans are going to be vocal with BS.

  6. You could also say all of those Presidents were going to lose no matter what happened. Johnson, Carter and Bush Sr. were doomed long before the Primary challenge.

    Obama is already doomed. Why vote for Republican Lite when you can have the real thing.

  7. Obama is a corporate bought and paid for tool just like all the other Republicans and Democrats. News flash, if Obama + other Democrats are just as faithful servants to their rich corporate masters as their Republican counterparts, it doesn’t matter if you get a Democrat or Republican. Folks need to stop voting for the Democratic spoiler. If you had voted your conscious, and everyone else did too, we wouldn’t have been saddled with this pathetic bunch of losers.

    Imagine someone like Cynthia McKinney (Green) as president– Guantanamo would be closed, we would not be escalating wars for gas pipelines in Afghanistan, the pullout from Iraq would have been real, not this Obama BS. The president doesn’t need the congress for these acts. We might have had a chance at bringing to justice the Bush administration and the Democrats and Republicans that went along with all the illegality (like Nancy Pelosi). But, Obama is just a tool– just like his mentor Lieberman.

    If those on the right would do the same, we might have had Ron Paul (Libertarian) for pres, and the very same great outcomes listed above would have been much more likely to pass than with a sell-out Democrat in office.

    Long past time for Obama to man up. Same can be said for anybody who still votes for either of the two major party candidates.

  8. I think the author has forgotten about Russ Feingold as a viable primary challenger. Personally, I hope it happens as President Obama has moved too far right for me to be comfortable with his continued presidency. There are too many things that are even worse than they were under the last adminsitration although I think he has done an OK job on the economy given the hand delt.

    Feingold ’12

  9. It’s a lame duck session, the new Tea Party candidates haven’t even taken their seats yet! So bashing them for inaction is ludicrous!

  10. The fact that there are still people in this country that think that there is a difference between the two parties amazes me. They are in this together to line their own pockets and nothing more. Obama caved on tax cuts and the Republicans caved on Government spending by allowing unemployment benefits to extend adding 600 billion more to the deficit. Both parties are trying to spin this a a win-win situation when really we all lose.

  11. Many Democrats, including President Obama, have shown that they too are owned by the corporations. I say bring on a strong primary opponent. What do we really have to lose? If it weakens President Obama, so be it. He’s not substantially different from a Republican anyway.

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