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UPDATE, 11:45 — The Associated Press is calling Arkansas for Obama, but it’s another closer-than-expected call. More details to come. Here’s a profile of the man who gave him a challenge tonight.When he’s asked why he’s still, almost in June, charging ahead a largely symbolic campaign—making calls to 3,000 to 4,000 voters, trudging through door-to-door-filled days—John Wolfe asks a staffer for a glass of water.
“My mouth is going to get hoarse,” he said in a phone interview from his campaign headquarters in Arkansas, before listing off the reasons he represents a different voice in the Democratic Party than President Barack Obama.
In Arkansas, Wolfe, the Chattanooga, Tenn. based attorney, is on the ballot for the fourth time in the Democratic primary schedule tonight.
This one is different than the others. This one, he has a chance—albeit a slim chance—of pulling off the unthinkable. The “once in a decade upset,” as he calls it, that’s more like once in four decades—no incumbent has lost a state in a primary since Jimmy Carter in 1980. Certainly, Wolfe would be the most obscure—Carter lost states to Ted Kennedy.
A recent independent poll of Arkansas’ Fourth district found Wolfe trailing Obama by just 7 percentage points. Disclaimer: That is a rural district with more self-described conservative Democrats than another district poll—taken two weeks before—that had about 64 per cent of the vote going to Obama, compared with 24 per cent for Wolfe.
Of course, he doesn’t expect to win. Wolfe pulled in about 12 per cent of the Democratic vote in Louisiana, and he thinks he could get somewhere around 30 per cent this time.
Wolfe has already been popping up around the conservative blogosphere in the past week because of the poll results. If Wolfe earns a significant chunk of the vote, this would be the second potential embarrassment for Obama in two weeks. In the West Virginia primary on May 8, a felon, Keith Judd, pulled in 41 per cent of the vote. Vice President Joe Biden said he doesn’t “blame people” that are obviously “frustrated” and “angry” for voting for Judd.
Does it matter for Obama’s general election prospects? On one hand, Obama is not going to win either West Virginia or Arkansas in November. On the other, the Washington Post found that in five states in which he’s had a living, breathing opponent, Obama has only garnered 72.7 per cent of the vote.
In New Hampshire, Obama lost 18 points to a number of candidates, including Wolfe. In North Carolina, Obama lost more than 20 per cent to the “uncommitted” vote. Those are two swing states in November, in which Democrats’ enthusiasm—or even a swing in their general-election votes—could play a crucial role in the outcome.
“We’ll see,” Wolfe said in a phone interview with Business Insider on Tuesday. “The people will speak today.”
Wolfe doesn’t want to be used as a message by the Republican Party, which is almost inevitable if he pulls in a good chunk of the vote. But he’s more frustrated with the party he is representing, which has not been pleased with his candidacy and almost even fought it along the way. (The Arkansas Democratic Party didn’t respond to a call requesting comment.)
After the Louisiana primary in April, Wolfe filed suit against the Democratic Party, which said he was not entitled to at least three delegates he was scheduled to receive because he did not file documents making him eligible for the primary.
“A lot of Obama supporters, they treat him not like he’s a President, but like he’s some sort of elevated figure,” Wolfe told Business Insider. “I don’t like to use the words ‘Dear Leader’ or ‘Chosen One.’ But it’s kind of like, if you attack him, you’ve attacked the party. That’s what they’re slipping into.”
Wolfe’s main gripes with Obama come in the banking and health care sectors of his government. He wants a return to the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act that President Bill Clinton repealed in 1999, to draw a line between commercial banks and investment banks or “speculation.” He also is an Obamacare critic. He supports a single-payer health care system that’s separate from employment.
Mostly, though, he thinks his voice should be one for the Democratic Party to consider. He doesn’t plan on getting out anytime soon—he will move onto Texas next week.
“So far, the party hasn’t supported me really well,” he said. “I think we need to take a look at where the Democratic Party is.”
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