You might recall that Pat Buchanan challenged President George H. W. Bush in the 1992 primaries and consistently got over 30% support in opinion polls and in primary votes. In 1980 the late Senator Ted Kennedy challenged President Jimmy Carter in the primaries and also polled over 30%. While history never repeats itself, when sitting Presidents have challengers with 30% support, they are in a lot of trouble.
Now, read this.
Among Democrats, 47 percent say Obama should be challenged for the 2012 nomination and 51 percent say he should not be opposed. Those favoring a contest include most who backed Hillary Rodham Clinton’s unsuccessful face-off against Obama for the 2008 nomination. The poll did not ask if Democrats would support particular challengers.
This is the first time I’ve seen a poll on challenging President Obama because who would normally expect anyone to even ask such a question before the mid term elections? Good grief, I would have expected this a year from now.
Whenever released, however, this is a shocking poll result. It should be a loud and close warning shot across the bow of Obama’s ship of politics. It will be interesting to see how he reacts in the next few weeks. Everyone is already expecting changes from the mid term elections and if you’ve been around the block, you know that this usually happens with new Presidents. Now, it does look like this change may be larger than usual for Mr. Obama, but still nothing that is outside of historical experience.
But this poll result is actually worse news for Obama than the likely outcomes of Tuesday’s election. The supporters of his own party want to fight him even before he “loses” Congress. Obama will not face just the expected Republican opposition, but he may also confront opponents within his party. Imagine how this gets into his head with people like Hillary Clinton or just about any current or former Democratic Governor. And, don’t even get started with the Senate. A poll result like this changes Obama’s attributional process with his “colleagues” and makes him wonder about why everyone’s doing what they are doing or are not doing.
As Harry Truman famously observed, “If you want in friend in Washington DC, get a dog.”
P.S. A group called Knowledge Networks handled this polling data. I am familiar with them from my government experience and have respect for their skill and character – they did good work. I have not obtained the data from this specific panel and life always changes, but it looks like reliable information. Besides, if their data is accurate, you’ll be seeing this from other polling sources you might prefer. Anything over 30% on this issue is a real problem and not a function of peculiar sampling or surveying.