If President Barack Obama is going to lose one of these Democratic primaries, it obviously won't be to some convict in West Virginia or to anti-abortion performance artist Randall Terry in Oklahoma. However, it could happen in Arkansas tonight, where he is challenged on the ballot by John Wolfe Jr. (Okay, it probably won't actually happen, but let's just suppose for a moment that it's possible.)
Who is John Wolfe Jr.? He is an attorney from Chattanooga, Tenn., who has run multiple campaigns for multiple offices in the past 14 years, racking up an impressive number of "I Participated" ribbons. In 1998, he lost the Democratic nomination for Tennessee's 3rd District congressional seat. He followed that up with an unimpressive showing in 2001's mayoral race in Chattanooga. A year later, he won the 3rd District nomination and lost to Zach Wamp. He repeated this achievement in 2004. In 2007, he crossed "lose a special election for a state Senate seat in Tennessee" off his bucket list.
Now he's running for president, because why not, right? Wolfe has, thus far, competed for the Democratic nomination in New Hampshire, Missouri and Louisiana, and will compete in Arkansas and Texas. His best showing so far has been in Louisiana, where he ended up with 11.82 percent of the vote, qualifying for delegates. State officials have, to date, denied him those delegates, on the grounds that he did not fulfill his filing requirements. Tonight, he might end up taking an even larger -- and potentially uncontestable -- share of Arkansas' delegates.
The Democratic Party reserves the right to deny delegates to anyone running for their nomination who is not running in good faith. This is why Terry and Keith Judd (the aforementioned convict) won't be receiving convention delegates. But Wolfe is not acting in bad faith and, as a former party nominee, falls well into the "plausible" category of competitors, never mind the fact that his is the longest of long shots.
In an interview with WikiNews, Wolfe characterized his candidacy as the pro-Glass-Steagall populist alternative to the incumbent:
So what is your reaction to the showing of prison inmate Keith Russell Judd in that primary?
Wolfe: Well it shows that Obama's left a void. His lack of leadership has left a void and people are upset. He should be out there with the people. He should be in those coal mines. He should be in those towns, where those factories have left, and he ought to be out there with the homeowners who've been foreclosed on by his campaign contributors. People know this man is nothing but a Wall Street creature. They know that his advisers in the White House are all failed executives of failed banks that have been bailed out: people like Emil [Michael], people like [Jacob] Lew, [William] Daley, they're all from the big six: the big corporations we had to bail out. Yes. What did they get for their failures? Promoted to the White House. People know that. Most of the guys who are raising his campaign money. They're sick of it. And that's why people in West Virginia, and lot of the blue collar people don't like Obama. It's his own fault because he is not of the people. He is of Wall Street. People are finally starting to see that.
John Wolfe isn't [of Wall Street]. John Wolfe worked his way up through.
John Wolfe is the sort of person who talks about himself in the third person, apparently.
Wolfe isn't entirely to the left of Obama. For example, he states pretty forthrightly that while he is "for equality" in LGBT issues (and he has compiled a decent record fighting on the gay community's behalf), he personally has "a little bit of a hard time with accepting gay marriage." Not that he thinks Obama's "evolution" is any great shakes: "If you look at what Obama said, it wasn't even progressive."
Wolfe's not entirely averse to the Obama presidency, and says that he "expects to" support him in November. But it won't be very enthusiastic support:
Wolfe: I expect to support the president, but to me, there's not a lot of difference between him and Romney on the economy and there's not that much difference between him and Romney on foreign affairs. There's not that much difference between him and Romney on civil liberties. The differences are a lot narrower than people think and they mostly arise in areas again of identity politics. [...] Romney alarms me a lot more than Obama does in that area. I think Romney would probably give too many tax cuts to the well-to-do, the ones that are already very wealthy. I think that Obama would at least put an end to that. I don't think he pushed quite that hard for a tax increase, but I don't think he'd even fight for tax reductions either.
While Wolfe battles for the nomination, he's simultaneously fighting the Louisiana Democrats, who he says have wrongly denied him the delegates to which he is entitled, accusing the party of "perpetrating a fraud on the vote" and "treating [Obama] again like a king."
Tonight's Arkansas primary provides Wolfe with the opportunity to take his largest share of a statewide primary vote -- and perhaps more delegates -- than any of Obama's ersatz competitors have thus far managed. The role of the thorn in the side of the eventual Democratic nominee is one that Arkansas has uniquely managed to play in previous presidential election cycles. As Dave Weigel remembers, Al Gore and John Kerry both posted some momentarily embarrassing results in Arkansas along the way to securing the nomination.
A poll conducted on May 10 by Talk Business/Hendrix College in Arkansas had Obama up on Wolfe by a surprisingly thin seven-point margin -- 45 to 38 -- with 17 percent still undecided. So, at the very least, you should gird yourself for several "Wolfe At The Door" headlines come Wednesday morning.
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