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How liberal anger at Obama budget helps the president, Democrats

The president's budget, with its cost-saving measures in Social Security and Medicare, has infuriated the left. That positions Obama more to the center and could help him achieve other goals – and save some Democratic seats in 2014.

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Obama’s maneuver on Social Security could also help centrist Democrats facing reelection next year. In particular, there are five Senate Democrats from red states who could be in trouble, depending, in part, upon whom the Republicans nominate. A moderated image for Obama could help them. They are Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Begich of Alaska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Max Baucus of Montana, and Kay Hagan of North Carolina.

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In addition, the Democrats are defending the seats of three retirees in states that could easily go Republican: South Dakota, West Virginia, and Iowa.

Currently, the Democrats control the Senate 55 to 45; to win a majority, Republicans need a net gain of six seats. That’s certainly doable, and so it’s in Obama’s interests to help his party’s moderates wherever possible. Given that the Democrats’ chances of retaking the House next year are a long shot, holding onto the Senate is probably the best Obama can do.

But in offering a compromise on entitlements in his budget, does Obama risk hurting members of his own party by inviting primary challenges to those who support his position?

In theory, yes. But practically speaking, probably not, analysts say.

While the Republicans have had plenty of intraparty conflict in the last two cycles, the Democrats have had hardly any. The last sitting congressional Democrat to lose a primary to a left-wing challenger was in 2006, when then-Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut lost to Ned Lamont. Senator Lieberman became an independent, and beat Mr. Lamont in the general.

“The White House is not particularly concerned about the latest round of threats – even as groups like Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America, and insist they are not bluffing,” write Glenn Thrush and Byron Tau in Politico.

These groups don’t have a lot of money to put into primary challenges, the article notes, especially when compared with GOP outside groups like Karl Rove’s American Crossroads


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