Obama likely to face primary challenge in 2012: GOP strategist

Members of President Obama's party unhappy with his military policy choices, especially in Afghanistan, could mount a primary challenge against him, says Republican strategist Bill McInturff.

Michael Bonfigli/Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Republican strategist Bill McInturff speaks to reporters at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast Thursday morning in Washington.

President Obama is likely to face a primary challenge for the 2012 Democratic nomination from members of his party unhappy with his military policy choices, especially in Afghanistan, says a Republican strategist

“A primary is, I think, more than likely,” says Bill McInturff, a partner in the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies. Mr. McInturff, co-director of the NBC News-Wall Street Journal Poll, was an adviser to John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. He spoke at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast for reporters on Thursday.

McInturff noted that in election night exit polling, people who expressed disapproval of US policy in Afghanistan “were voting overwhelmingly Democrat.” That unhappiness could be coupled with a potential negative response from Democratic voters as Obama tries to find common ground with a Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

“He is going to look very, very, very, very different between now through June than he has looked the last two years,” McInturff said. His polling firm worked for nine winning senate candidates, four governors, and 27 new members of Congress in the 2010 election.

“If I were [recently defeated Wisconsin] Senator Feingold and I were now unemployed, I would say 'did he close Guantanamo Bay? No. He put 30,000 more troops in Afghanistan. I am not for that. He compromised too much,' ” McInturff said. "It is not hard to imagine what I would run on in a Democrat primary against President Obama…. Everything I like and admire that the president has done is a reason he is in trouble in a potential Democrat primary.”

Senator Feingold has been a vocal opponent of the President on Afghanistan. Feingold’s website says he “opposed policies such as the war in Iraq, and President Obama's military escalation in Afghanistan, which undermine our global fight against terrorism.”

In his concession speech Tuesday evening, Feingold made it clear he was not leaving political life. “I hope and I intend to continue to work with all of you in the future as much as possible,” Feingold said. “So it’s on to the next fight. It’s on to the next battle. It’s on to 2012. And it is on to our next adventure – forward!”

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