Alan Fram's AP story, "Obama Primary Challenge? Nearly Half Of Dems Want 2010 Fight" has a catchy headline, and it's no wonder that Jeffroby88 flagged it in a quick hit. But between the content of the story and and the topline results (pdf), it turns out there's a lot there than meets the eye for anyone pushing a "dump Obama" agenda. OTOH, there's a lot more there for those trying to puzzle out what, if anything positive might come of the current Democratic discontent.
In the story itself, Fram writes the provocative lead:
Democratic voters are closely divided over whether President Barack Obama should be challenged within the party for a second term in 2012, an Associated Press-Knowledge Networks Poll finds.
Then later writes:
Among all 2008 voters, 51 percent say he deserves to be defeated in November 2012 while 47 percent support his re-election - essentially a tie.
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 faceoff against Obama for the 2008 nomination....
_Nearly 3 in 10, or 29 percent, of Democrats who said during the spring of 2008 that they were backing Obama for the Democratic nomination now say they want him to be challenged in 2012. Seven in 10 want him renominated.
_Sixty-one percent of Democrats who said in spring 2008 that they were backing Clinton now say Obama should face an opponent for the party's nomination.
_More than 8 in 10 overall who on Election Day 2008 said they'd voted for Obama want to re-elect him, though 1 in 7 say he should be defeated.
So what gives? 47% of Dems say they want Obama challenged, but over 80% who voted for him want to re-elect him? Where's that extra 27%+ come from? And, more generally, WTFs going on?
Well, it helps to take a look at the topline PDF, where we get this additional piece of information about Democrats, or Dem-leaning independents:
That 36% of Obama voters is still hard to reconcile with the "80% who voted for him want to re-elect him." Are his GOP & independent supporters not aligned with the Dems actually more supportive of him than those in this subsample? It seems unlikely. So the data itself has not been well-explained by AP. But to the extent it has been shared, it seems that a lot of the discontent comes from folks who weren't all that sold on Obama in the first place.
What's more, as for the blunt "Dump Obama!" approach, the poll found that just 3% of 2008 Obama voters had a "very unfavorable" view of him, while 7% had a "somewhat unfavorable" view, compared to 39% "somewhat favorable" view, and 48% "very favorable".
Clearly a lot of those saying they favor a primary challenge have at least a "somewhat favorable" view of him. That's a pretty healthy sign for our democracy that so many folks can have at least a "somewhat favorable" view of a president, and yet still think that a serious primary challenge would be a good thing. But it's not a very good sign for those pushing a hardline "Dump Obama" message.
Maybe we really could have a mostly-positive primary challenge.... If, that is, we could find a candidate. Hillary, obviously, is not exactly readily available for that slot. But I'm pleased, at least, to see the level of sophistication shown by such a significant chunk of the Democratic electorate.