Two weeks after an imprisoned felon received 41 percent of the vote against President Obama in West Virginia's presidential primary, Arkansas could provide another potential embarrassment for the incumbent.
hat's because only Obama and John Wolfe, a Tennessee lawyer, are on the Democratic presidential primary ballot in the Razorback State. (Wolfe took 12 percent — and nearly 18,000 votes — in a four-way fight in the Louisiana Democratic presidential primary in late March.) And a recent independent pollshowed Obama running just seven points ahead of Wolfe in the southern Arkansas 4th district, which covers one-quarter of the state.
All of this takes place on a backdrop that is decidedly less than friendly for Obama. Even while he was sweeping to a national victory (and 365 electoral votes) in 2008, Obama received just 39 percent in Arkansas — six points worse than Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry did four years earlier.
"Arkansas voters are informed voters and are fully aware that John Wolfe will not make it out of the primary," said one well-connected Arkansas Democrat. "However, if John Wolfe has a strong showing tomorrow, it's a sign that Democratic voters in Arkansas are frustrated with the administration's policies and further reiteration that Southern Democrats simply cannot identify with President Obama."
And, if the press coverage of Keith Judd's surprisingly strong showing two weeks ago in West Virginia is any indication, you can expect Wolfe to draw significant attention in the immediate aftermath of today's vote.
Couple Wolfe's candidacy in Arkansas with the fact that Kentucky — another place where Obama isn't popular with many people who call themselves Democrats — also votes today (Obama faces no opponents in Kentucky, but voters there can select "uncommitted" as an option) and you have the potential for a less-than-friendly narrative regarding Obama come Wednesday. And that would follow 72 hours of coverage about Newark Mayor Cory Booker's comments about private equity and how it should be off-limits in the campaign.
But, what would a Wolfe "surge" actually tell us? And what would it mean in the broader dialogue of the presidential race? Not all that much.
It's no secret that Obama has struggled with many Democrats in Appalachia and portions of the South, struggles attributed to the more conservative nature of the party in that region, his position on mining and, yes, his race.
There's also no chance that Wolfe has any practical impact — either inside or outside of Arkansas — since he did not meet the state's Feb. 20 filing deadline and, therefore, will not be eligible to win any delegates today. And when it comes to the general election, Arkansas is not exactly going to be a electoral hotbed. (If it is, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is going to lose — and lose badly.)
So what Wolfe wins — alliteration! — matters only in whether or not it drives stories about unrest within the party toward Obama. Beyond that, he's likely to be forgotten within a news cycle (or maybe two).