Earlier this month, President Obama suffered a morning of embarrassing headlines after 42 percent of Democratic voters in West Virginia chose Texas prison inmate Keith Judd over the president in their state’s primary. Tuesday’s Arkansas primary may add insult to injury.
The would-be spoiler in Arkansas is Tennessee lawyer John Wolfe, a perennial candidate who was also on the ballot in New Hampshire and Louisiana, the latter of which gave him 12 percent of the vote. Buzz has been building that Wolfe could take a larger share of the vote in Arkansas — based largely on a Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll from May 10 that showed Obama leading 45 percent to 38 percent in Arkansas’s largely rural 4th Congressional District.
Unlike, Judd, who is in prison, Wolfe is campaigning, even though the state Democratic Party has already said it will not award him any delegates to the national convention no matter how many votes he gets. Wolfe hasn’t had the money for TV or radio ads, but he has been calling people in Arkansas and says he bought some newspaper inserts, according to an interview Wolfe gave to Wikinews. According to a National Review story, the last time he visited Arkansas was in March.
The conservative media has gotten a kick out of Wolfe’s candidacy and its potential to embarrass Obama, but Wolfe’s positions are even further to the left of the president. On his campaign website, he argues that Obama has been “dominated” by “the Pentagon, Wall Street, and corporations.” He calls for reform, “not war and austerity.” Wolfe called the stimulus a “good start” that ultimately “wasn’t enough” in the Wikinews interview. Wolfe has one pledged delegate so far in Arkansas, 78-year-old Bill Conway, who says he supports Wolfe because of his strong stance against Wall Street.
A strong showing by Wolfe in Arkansas will send the message that “Democratic voters in Arkansas are frustrated with the administration’s policies and further [reiterate] that Southern Democrats simply cannot identify with President Obama,” one Arkansas Democrat told the Washington Post.
Arkansas has never been friendly territory for Obama, who lost the state to John McCain by 20 points in 2008, fairing worse than John Kerry did four years earlier.
Arkansas has an open primary, which means Republicans can also vote for Wolfe. Wolfe says he plans to file suits in Louisiana and Arkansas to make sure he gets any delegates he has earned at the national convention. Wolfe will also appear on the ballot in Texas on May 29.
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.