Will Obama Pull an LBJ and Drop Out?

In 1968, the political world was shocked when President Lyndon Johnson, running for reelection just four years after a landslide victory, was held to beneath 50% of the vote in the Democrat primary in New Hampshire. Sen. Eugene McCarthy scored a shocking 41.5% of the vote against the incumbent President.

The result confirmed Johnson's weakness going into the November general election. Within weeks, Sen. Robert Kennedy announced he would seek the Democrat nomination for President, and Johnson announced that he would not. LBJ was bowing out of his reelection bid. 

Today, the Obama reelection campaign is reeling from his disastrous performance in the Democrat primaries in Arkansas and Kentucky. In Arkansas, an unknown lawyer who has raised only $2,000 scored 42% of the vote. In Kentucky, 40% of the Democrat vote went to "uncommitted". These results mirror those from a few weeks ago in West Virginia, where a convicted felon imprisoned in Texas took 41% of the Democrat vote against Obama. 

Mind you, Sen. McCarthy was a serious candidate running on an increasingly popular anti-war message. Obama, by contrast, just lost 40% of the Democrat vote to a guy in prison, an unknown lawyer, and -- well, a ghost, essentially. Losing 40% of the vote to "uncommitted" from your own party ought to make one rethink one's campaign. 

I remember back in 1992, when the media went into a feeding frenzy over Pat Buchanan's 37% showing against Bush 41 in New Hampshire. For weeks, we heard that the primary result in the Granite State showed Bush's reelection effort was in serious jeopardy. Buchanan was, unlike Obama's recent primary opponents, a serious, well-known, and media savy candidate. His showing was evidence to the media at the time of how out of touch Bush was with his political base. The media told us, essentially, that Bush's reelection campaign was failing. 

Ok, setting aside their ability then to generate self-fulfilling prophecies, the media kind of got that one right. 

Of course, I don't think Obama will have the self-awareness of LBJ and drop out of the Presidential campaign. And, I certainly don't believe the media will revisit their old contention that an incumbent president losing 40% of his own party's vote is a sign of vulnerability. I expect they'll sweep it under the rug and pretend it doesn't mean anything special. 

But. It. Did. Happen. And, it will have a significant bearing on this Fall's election. Obama obviously never had a serious chance of winning Arkansas, Kentucky, and West Virginia in November. But, the results in these states suggest that Obama has a serious problem with a significant portion of his Democrat base. Remember, this wasn't a poll or survey of Democrats. They had to actively go to the polls and vote in a race which was largely uncontested. 

That shows some serious initiative. By Democrats. To vote against Obama. Message received. 


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