Do the Dems have a Eugene McCarthy for 2012?

posted at 8:48 am on March 28, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

During the Democratic debacle of the midterms, speculation abounded about whether Barack Obama would face a challenger in 2012, especially from the anti-war Left.  The post-election bump seemed to put an end to the notion, but with Obama’s numbers reverting to 2010 form and a fumbled start to a fresh military adventure, will it arise again?  Steve Chapman remembers how Obama became president:

Democratic voters in 2008 had their pick of many candidates for president — from Hillary Clinton to John Edwards to Joe Biden. Why did they choose Barack Obama?

After all, he had less experience in office than many of his rivals. He was not as well-known. He had the potential electoral liability of being black. No one knew if he was tough enough to stand up to Republican assaults in a nasty campaign.

So what accounts for his success? More than any other reason, he won because he had opposed the invasion of Iraq — which Clinton and others had endorsed. Obama was the peace candidate of 2008. As the long and costly war dragged on, that was a priceless asset. …

But the mood of Democrats may be changing. The liberal magazine the Nation decried the intervention in Libya as “flagrant hypocrisy.” John Larson, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, upbraided Obama for not consulting Congress.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, called the war “another disaster.” If our involvement lasts weeks or months instead of days, Obama could lose many Democratic members.

Hillary carried the burden of her husband’s interventionism, but neither Edwards nor Biden was a more serious candidate than Obama.  All Edwards could claim was that he had actually completed one term in the Senate, while no one could remember when Biden hadn’t been there — plus Biden had an embarrassing plagiarism scandal on his record as well.  The only serious candidate on the trail was Bill Richardson, who actually had executive, legislative, and diplomatic experience, unlike every single one of his competitors for the nomination in 2008, and Richardson also tried running on the anti-war platform with little success.

I’m not certain that Obama won on that basis, or just on the general feeling that no one really wanted a Clinton to replace a Bush again, and Edwards seemed too slick and fake as an ambulance chaser-cum-populist.  Obama benefited more from being at the right place at the right time, and then seizing Edwards’ angry-populist mantle and adding a dash of Hope and Change to make it more palatable.  Other than that slogan, Obama offered no particular example of anti-war activism — and campaigned on a more vigorous prosecution of the war in Afghanistan than even John McCain, one promise he’s actually kept.

But that doesn’t lessen the danger for Obama from a defection of the anti-war base.  That constituency fought enthusiastically for his election in 2008, providing energy and foot soldiers for his GOTV efforts.  If they leave, and Obama loses the center as Democrats did in 2010, he won’t win a second term, and his party will face another debacle in the Senate.  If that perception spreads, the weakness will encourage challengers to Obama in the primaries.

Will they be significant challengers, though?  Dennis Kucinich will probably roll out the Grandfather Time endorsement again, and Ralph Nader will run a Moldy Green campaign if no one else bothers, but neither will have any impact on Obama’s renomination.  Chapman recalls 1968, when Senator Eugene McCarthy from Minnesota ran on an anti-war platform and shocked the nation by almost beating Lyndon Johnson in New Hampshire, forcing him to withdraw from his re-election campaign.  McCarthy was seen as a serious candidate, although he didn’t win the nomination; Bobby Kennedy would have won it had he not been assassinated, and instead the Happy Warrior, Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey, went on to lose against Richard Nixon.

It’s difficult to see a McCarthy among today’s Democrats.  Russ Feingold might be significant enough to matter, but he just lost his last statewide election, and Obama campaigned on his behalf.  Chapman suggests James Webb, but Webb isn’t even interested in running for a second term in the Senate, and isn’t exactly the most anti-war Democrat.  Richardson might be a better choice; the federal investigation into questionable dealings during his term as governor has ended without any charges, and he owes nothing to Obama or to Hillary, whose diplomacy he would have to sharply criticize in a primary fight.  Richardson could run on both an anti-war platform and on the issue of executive incompetence.  Otherwise, even though the opening may be there, anti-war Democrats may not have anyone to fill it.

Update: LBJ did win New Hampshire, but just barely, over McCarthy.  I’ve corrected the reference.


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I’m more worried about the Republicans putting up a Eugene McCarthy for 2012.

princetrumpet on March 28, 2011 at 8:55 AM

Eugene McCarthy?

The Dems today are more likely to nominate Eugene Debs.

coldwarrior on March 28, 2011 at 8:56 AM

Mike Castle?

Akzed on March 28, 2011 at 8:58 AM

Ralph Nader will run a Moldy Green campaign

Now, that’s a good’n.
:-)

pambi on March 28, 2011 at 8:58 AM

A candidacy on the left against Obama would split the left, bring out the racism charges intra-party that the Democrats are planning to use against the Republican nominee in the 2012 general election, and if the primary challenge were somehow to be successful, crater African-American turnout in the general election for the Dems, not just at the presidential level but in all down-ballot races across the nation.

So the left may fume, but other than a Kucinich or a Nader vanity campaign, you’re not going to see a serious primary challenge against Obama.

jon1979 on March 28, 2011 at 9:01 AM

Bobby Kennedy would have won it had he not been assassinated

Maybe. There is a lot of debate as to whether he could have made up the deficit in pledged delegates.

It’s an interesting question–primarying Obama–but like you say, there’s not really anyone in the right role to challenge him.

Abby Adams on March 28, 2011 at 9:03 AM

Ed. To correct the record, LBJ won in New Hampshire, but by a slim margin. McCarthy raised eyebrows by collecting north of 40% of the vote. What caused LBJ to drop out was the polling in Wisconsin, which showed him losing there. Also, just short of the Wisconsin primary, Bobby Kennedy threw his has in the ring.

oldguy on March 28, 2011 at 9:03 AM

Hi, I’m Muskie and I’m from Maine .. well, go take a bath.

J_Crater on March 28, 2011 at 9:11 AM

I’m more worried about the Republicans putting up a Eugene McCarthy for 2012.

princetrumpet on March 28, 2011 at 8:55 AM

Yeah. I don’t think Sarah is going to run, and while I would happily support her, the MSM has attached enough baggage on her that I think she needs to spend a few years rehabbing her reputation. I’m not enthusiastic about anyone else, and the Mike Huckster types will cause me to go third party.

rbj on March 28, 2011 at 9:12 AM

Richardson might be a better choice; the federal investigation into questionable dealings during his term as governor has ended without any charges, and he owes nothing to Obama or to Hillary

Richardson probably owes a lot to Obama:

“the federal investigation into questionable dealings during his term as [New Mexico] governor has ended without any charges”

Pretty convenient how that worked out for Richardson, wasn’t it? But did anybody really believe that Obama’s DOJ, under the scrupulously fair and politically unbiased leadership of Eric Holder, was going to greenlight corruption charges against a Democratic governor?

AZCoyote on March 28, 2011 at 9:13 AM

Draft Anthony Weiner!

He’s anti-war! He’s brash! He loves to drives conservatives crazy! And what’s best of all, he has a last name we can make endless fun of all year long!

pilamaye on March 28, 2011 at 9:14 AM

Richardson might be a better choice; the federal investigation into questionable dealings during his term as governor has ended without any charges, and he owes nothing to Obama or to Hillary, whose diplomacy he would have to sharply criticize in a primary fight.

Didn’t Richardson get off on the pay-for-play scandal because the authorities simply looked the other way and decided not to charge him? I thought there was a credible case to be made against the dude.

Either way, he doesn’t have a prayer of knocking off Obama. I don’t think anyone does. Hillary can’t run against him. She’s inextricably linked to him as his Secretary of State, especially now with the Libya situation hanging over the administration like a dark cloud. Howard Dean is a nutcase, and he really hurt his credibility with the antiwar left by defending the Libya war. And Kucinich might be even crazier than Dean. At least Dean never talked about seeing a UFO.

Doughboy on March 28, 2011 at 9:14 AM

Isn’t there a Dem governor that fits the bill? Or a complete outsider, similar to Herman Cain on our side?

parteagirl on March 28, 2011 at 9:16 AM

Would Bloomberg run as a Dem?

parteagirl on March 28, 2011 at 9:17 AM

The Dems won’t run anyone else because Obama is Charlie McCarthy. He’ll say anything and everything but no one will care if the statements contradict.

Cindy Munford on March 28, 2011 at 9:21 AM

raft Anthony Weiner!

He’s anti-war! He’s brash! He loves to drives conservatives crazy! And what’s best of all, he has a last name we can make endless fun of all year long!

pilamaye on March 28, 2011 at 9:14 AM

Win with Weiner? Women for Weiner? Campaign in the Weinermobile?

tpitman on March 28, 2011 at 9:25 AM

Evan Byah. He is the dems McCarthy. watch.

unseen on March 28, 2011 at 9:26 AM

Would Bloomberg run as a Dem?

parteagirl on March 28, 2011 at 9:17 AM

He sure can’t run as anything else after this:

http://www.necn.com/03/27/11/Video-Michael-Bloomberg-dangles-over-sta/landing_arts.html?blockID=491840&feedID=4214

Naturally Curly on March 28, 2011 at 9:27 AM

Isn’t there a Dem governor that fits the bill? Or a complete outsider, similar to Herman Cain on our side?

parteagirl on March 28, 2011 at 9:16 AM

Not a sitting governor. Cuomo maybe in a few years would make a formidable candidate(depending on how he does in NY), but right now it’s too soon and he would never p-ss away any legit shot at higher office by challenging Obama in a primary.

Doughboy on March 28, 2011 at 9:27 AM

Evan Byah. He is the dems McCarthy. watch.

unseen on March 28, 2011 at 9:26 AM

I think you may be on to something here.

Naturally Curly on March 28, 2011 at 9:30 AM

I agree with an earlier poster, the GOP is the one that is most likely going to be putting up the Eugene McCarthy candidate.

There will be no challenge to Obama on the Democratic side. Dismiss all that and focus on getting a new President.

albill on March 28, 2011 at 9:31 AM

Would Bloomberg run as a Dem?

parteagirl on March 28, 2011 at 9:17 AM

BLOOMBERG/2012
WHO’S YOUR NANNY?!!!!!

pilamaye on March 28, 2011 at 9:32 AM

Anyone Won who runs against OBlahBLah will be a racist, so not gonna happen, unless Trump gets ahold of that Birth Certificate!

dhunter on March 28, 2011 at 9:32 AM

Right now my guess is he will sail all the way to the convention while the Pubs eat themselves alive. On the other hand it is going to be a long hot summer. With the U.N. now empowered to use the U.S. military as a chewtoy things could turn very LBJ on him.

Limerick on March 28, 2011 at 9:33 AM

Evan Byah. He is the dems McCarthy. watch.

unseen on March 28, 2011 at 9:26 AM

I think Bayh ended his chances at the Presidency with his vote for Obamacare. If Romneycare is threatening Mittens’ candidacy before he’s even officially announced he’s running, what hope does Bayh have?

Doughboy on March 28, 2011 at 9:34 AM

Cindy Munford on March 28, 2011 at 9:21 AM

Cindy, there is indeed truth in that. Nice call. :-)

Anyway, if the Dems allow any “serious” contender in the primary…Team Obama will show its true colors (no pun intended) and there will be a bloodbath among the Dems long long before the convention.

Only if the challenger is far more socialist, far more progressive, far more extreme and more competent than Obama will any such candidate actually have a chance for the nomination in Charlotte.

But, are the bulk of the Dem voters actually ready to cede this Nation over to such a blatant socialist agenda? Sure, the unions seem ready. And the SEIU stands ready to usher in the New Age. And Rich Trumka would love nothing better. But the so-called average working stiff?

And there is still that race thing…is a challenge to Obama racist?

No serious challenger to Obama in the end will be allowed to make it as far as Charlotte. It would destroy the Party and make 1968 look like kiddie stuff.

coldwarrior on March 28, 2011 at 9:34 AM

The anti-war left will come home to Obama when the time comes. They know that prosecuting the wars are a small price to pay for “fundamentally transforming America”. They may be “anti-war”but they are really “left”.
The big reason the anti-war movement of the ’60s turned on LBJ and were so strong was the military draft. If we were drafting now, then the movement would be very big, powerful and pi$$ed.

cartooner on March 28, 2011 at 9:35 AM

Weiner/Frank 2012

cartooner on March 28, 2011 at 9:36 AM

So what accounts for his success? More than any other reason, he won because he had opposed the invasion of Iraq.

No…More than any reason, he won because he’s black.

And that’s why I don’t think he’ll be primaried. In the end, no one to the Left of him–is there really such a thing?–is going to get up before voters of the Left–Democrat primary voters–and ask them to reject the first black president.

Typhoon on March 28, 2011 at 9:38 AM

Interesting statement saying that RFK would have won the nomination.

Since he won the California primary the day he got shot by Sirhan Sirhan (STILL in prison, parole denied AGAIN, BTW) it would have caused a NASTY floor fight at the Chicago convention since nobody had enough delegates to win on the first ballot… As a 9 year old, I was actually looking forward to watching the Chicago convention since my parents voted for Bobby… It just wasn’t to be… I jusy got to see riots, the Chicago 7, Mayor Daley’s (sp?) police force, etc.

Khun Joe on March 28, 2011 at 9:39 AM

what hope does Bayh have?

Doughboy on March 28, 2011 at 9:34 AM

he is not obama. remember Obamacare is at least liked some what on the left.

unseen on March 28, 2011 at 9:43 AM

AYERS – SHEEHAN 2012 Dem dream ticket!

profitsbeard on March 28, 2011 at 9:46 AM

Only if the challenger is far more socialist, far more progressive, far more extreme and more competent than Obama will any such candidate actually have a chance for the nomination in Charlotte.
coldwarrior on March 28, 2011 at 9:34 AM

Frances Fox Piven?

Naturally Curly on March 28, 2011 at 9:49 AM

Frances Fox Piven?

Naturally Curly on March 28, 2011 at 9:49 AM

She’s what, 80 years old?

She has the credentials, otherwise.

coldwarrior on March 28, 2011 at 9:53 AM

he is not obama. remember Obamacare is at least liked some what on the left.

unseen on March 28, 2011 at 9:43 AM

Then why would the left ever want to dump Obama(who signed it into law) for Bayh?

Doughboy on March 28, 2011 at 9:55 AM

The only serious candidate on the trail was Bill Richardson, who actually had executive, legislative, and diplomatic experience, unlike every single one of his competitors for the nomination in 2008, and Richardson also tried running on the anti-war platform with little success.

Does “serious” involve FBI investigations? If so, then Rod Blagojevich could have been a “serious” contender, too…

steebo77 on March 28, 2011 at 9:55 AM

Leftists are anti-war only when it aids their political agenda.
Libs are mindless tools who do whatever the leftist propaganda machine influences them to do.

You don’t see the Code Pink crowd going nuts over this Libya debacle, do you?

The environmental movement is analogous. You don’t think that the Left really gives a rat’s ass about the environment, do you?

justltl on March 28, 2011 at 9:55 AM

Naturally Curly on March 28, 2011 at 9:49 AM

Piven is Russian-Canadian by birth, right? Fits right in with the Socialist-Kenyan by birth of the current occupant. /

coldwarrior on March 28, 2011 at 9:56 AM

Norman Thomas 2012?

steebo77 on March 28, 2011 at 9:57 AM

Draft Anthony Weiner!

He’s anti-war! He’s brash! He loves to drives conservatives crazy! And what’s best of all, he has a last name we can make endless fun of all year long!

pilamaye on March 28, 2011 at 9:14 AM

I was thinking Weiner, too. But he wants to be Mayor of New York City, and running against Obama will really make him unpopular with African-American voters, in a city that’s a quarter-black (and they’re an even larger percentage of Democratic primary voters).

Howard Dean’s been touted as a possibility.

Al Gore is making a push to become a media force.

One possibility is Jerry Brown of California. He challenged an incumbent Carter back in 1980. And ran against Clinton in the ’92 primary. He might enter if there’s any serious opposition to Obama.

Mister Mets on March 28, 2011 at 10:01 AM

There will be no McCarthy, but Ralph Nader is beginning to look like Harold Stassen.

LakeLevel on March 28, 2011 at 10:03 AM

coldwarrior on March 28, 2011 at 9:34 AM

I do believe that historic guilt is playing and will continue to play a pivotal roll in all things Obama. It’s the only explanation for ignoring incompetence and inconsistencies. And from my vantage point, if the Tea Party doesn’t get its’ rear in gear it is going to let the Unions completely take over the narrative. It’s time to hit the streets.

Cindy Munford on March 28, 2011 at 10:04 AM

Piven is Russian-Canadian by birth, right? Fits right in with the Socialist-Kenyan by birth of the current occupant. /

coldwarrior on March 28, 2011 at 9:56 AM

If anyone is the anti-Palin it’s that ugly old hag.

Who is Barry Soetero?

Naturally Curly on March 28, 2011 at 10:06 AM

Anyone who has studied Obama’s political career knows that there will be no Democrat who primaries him.

darwin-t on March 28, 2011 at 10:08 AM

Kucinich / Durbin 2012…

mjbrooks3 on March 28, 2011 at 10:11 AM

I don’t know how he could win the nomination, but Phil Bredesen, the two-term Nashville mayor and then two-term Tennessee governor, could win the White House if he were their nominee. He’s serious, smart, and a proven leader. He’s also a self-made capitalist with a net worth in the Romney range. TN is among the most red of red states, but he managed to be liked by people in both parties, winning his re-election campaign with nearly 69% of the vote. He even won counties in East TN, which Democrats just don’t do.

Another thing about Bredesen, he’s from New York. It’s quite a feat for a man with his accent to serve as Nashville mayor and then Tennesse governor. I have long believed a moderate Southern Democrat like Bredesen could save that party from their crazy left-wing. I think independents would flock to a guy like Bredesen.

flyfisher on March 28, 2011 at 10:17 AM

There were principled New Dealers and principled antiwar people in those days.

Today’s Democratic Party is a Protection Racket. That’s why nobody will run against Obama. They’re all in on the scam.

They value pork more than they value principle.

Obama and Bankster Soros know this. That is why they breathe easy. There are no men in the Democratic Party. Metrosexuals, yes. But no men.

victor82 on March 28, 2011 at 10:28 AM

The environmental movement is analogous. You don’t think that the Left really gives a rat’s ass about the environment, do you?

justltl on March 28, 2011 at 9:55 AM

As evidenced by the trash the leftard filth leaves in their wake after protests and their livin large while tellin us little folk to turn off the lights!

Lights ON! Patriots lightem up while ya gottem cause the rate the Repugnantcans are cuttin the budget they won’t be on for long!

dhunter on March 28, 2011 at 10:55 AM

Everyone thought the Clinton machine was ruthless, but Obama’s Chicago crew made them look like amateurs.

Anyone who decides to take on that bunch of thugs had better gird his loins.

novaculus on March 28, 2011 at 11:03 AM

So what accounts for his success? More than any other reason, he won because he had opposed the invasion of Iraq — which Clinton and others had endorsed. Obama was the peace candidate of 2008. As the long and costly war dragged on, that was a priceless asset

Wrong, the Bamster won because he is black. By voting for him the liberals were patting themselves on the back and telling themselves that they were not racists, even though the democratic party has been the home of racism and eugenics for hundreds of years.

Have the liberals thereby exorcised that irrational guilt enough that they can move on in 2012? That is the question.

slickwillie2001 on March 28, 2011 at 11:04 AM

No one knew if he was tough enough to stand up to Republican assaults in a nasty campaign.

Remind me – when was the “Republican assault” on Obama?

Seems to me they had a complete “hands-off” campaign.

Squiggy on March 28, 2011 at 11:25 AM

Kucinich / Durbin 2012…

mjbrooks3 on March 28, 2011 at 10:11 AM

Hahahaha!! Oh man, you cracked me up. I can’t catch my breath.

Oh, wait… You’re serious?

Squiggy on March 28, 2011 at 11:27 AM

Squiggy on March 28, 2011 at 11:25 AM

+10

The late Geraldine Ferraro had to step down from the Clinton Campaign in 2008 for “racist remarks.”

Bill Clinton was taken to the woodshed for saying Obama was playing the race card.

To cite but two examples.

Seems there was no “Republican assault” on Obama, but there was indeed a “Clinton assault” on Obama that is now pretty much forgotten, or has disappeared as the progressives have rewritten history…again.

coldwarrior on March 28, 2011 at 11:34 AM

No…More than any reason, he won because he’s black.

And that’s why I don’t think he’ll be primaried. In the end, no one to the Left of him–is there really such a thing?–is going to get up before voters of the Left–Democrat primary voters–and ask them to reject the first black president.

Typhoon on March 28, 2011 at 9:38 AM

Exactly.

Nothing exposed the depth of cynicism in the Dem party like the nomination of Obama. It was apparent to any normal person from the very inception of his political career that looking black was (a) his primary qualification, and (b) the promotion of his candidacy was cannily intended to make NPR liberals feel self-congratulatory about their “open-mindedness.”

I find almost all of your stuff well-thought-out, Ed, but you and Steve Chapman have missed the mark here – to the extent that you’ve allowed the Dems to dictate terms in the debate.

Do better.

warbaby on March 28, 2011 at 12:01 PM

Since when are liberals anti-war?

Liberals have always opposed any action — military or otherwise — that can at least theoretically benefit America.

But Barack Hussein Obama has never violated that rule. And he never will.

logis on March 28, 2011 at 12:12 PM

Yeah. I don’t think Sarah is going to run, and while I would happily support her, the MSM has attached enough baggage on her that I think she needs to spend a few years rehabbing her reputation. I’m not enthusiastic about anyone else, and the Mike Huckster types will cause me to go third party.

rbj on March 28, 2011 at 9:12 AM

I hope she runs. Personally, I think the only way she can address the baggage attached by the MSM is to get her on-stage in a debate where the MSM can’t censor or spin her responses.

Most of her policy positions are pretty common-sense… even to my liberal friends. But they tend to dismiss her policy points before hearing what she has to say. Getting her in a debate might open up some of them… but I won’t hold my breath.

If she doesn’t run, I’m not sure where I’ll go. I’m luke-warm on the other potential candidates. I’ve been thinking third party, but again it would depend on the candidate. But I absolutely refuse to vote for another RINO. If the GOP wants my vote, that’s my criteria.

dominigan on March 28, 2011 at 12:49 PM

E. J. Dionne, prematurely wets his pants.

Schadenfreude on March 28, 2011 at 1:54 PM

If the Republicans don’t come up with a decent candidate in 2012, I’m considering voting for Ralph Nader out of spite.

Discuss.

manwithblackhat on March 28, 2011 at 2:05 PM

I damn to hell any nominal Republican that sits out the next election. Our nation is hanging by a thread and this is no time for a take-my-ball-home attitude.

slickwillie2001 on March 28, 2011 at 3:16 PM

Obama won because Independents voted for him. Independents voted for him because he’s black and has a nice voice as well as the media wanted a black man to win.

All it would take is something else bright and shiney to get the independent’s attention and they’ll vote for that.

Vince on March 28, 2011 at 4:20 PM

Since Boris Badenov isn’t working out real well for them, maybe they’ll run Fearless Leader.

Done That on March 28, 2011 at 4:26 PM

I’m shocked that no one here has considered that HILLARY is still dreaming of becoming POTUS. The Clinton machine is not to be toyed with, you know.

honsy on March 28, 2011 at 4:31 PM

So what accounts for his success? More than any other reason, he won because he had opposed the invasion of Iraq…

BS! More than anything was a compliant (complicit?) press and McCain being afraid to attack him lest he be called a racist.

Big John on March 28, 2011 at 7:58 PM

Evan Byah. He is the dems McCarthy. watch.

unseen on March 28, 2011 at 9:26 AM

Yep. I think he has positioning himself as above the fray and as a moderate when he decided not to run again. I have thought that ever since.

cubbieblue25 on March 28, 2011 at 10:57 PM

Was/is Bayh an “anti-war” candidate?

mockmook on March 28, 2011 at 11:22 PM