Can Obama lose the Left and win in 2012?

Liberals are furious at the president for caving on tax cuts for the wealthy — which may be just what Obama needs to win re-election

"Obama the compromiser" may have to wrangle with both progressive activists and a Republican-dominated Congress in the next two years of his presidency.
(Image credit: Getty)

President Obama angered liberal supporters by reaching a tax deal with Republicans without bringing his own party into the negotiations, then labeling his most vocal detractors on the Left "sanctimonious." The tax deal will probably pass Congress, and it is broadly popular in opinion polls. But will an alienated liberal base doom Obama's chances for re-election in 2012 — or improve them? (Watch Obama blast his critics)

The path to victory is through the middle: Obama's success in 2012 rests on the economy, says Mark Halperin in Time, the thing he can least control. But "this new Obama" is more likely to win than the old one, because "centrist governance" has a better chance of getting things done in a divided Congress. "Here's a simple rule to guide the president: If a proposal is denounced by both Nancy Pelosi and Sarah Palin, it will probably find support in the center of the electorate."

"Obama finds a new model for presidential success"

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But independents aren't being swayed yet: A poll taken after the tax deal was reached suggests a "worst-case scenario" for Obama in 2012, says Nate Silver in FiveThirtyEight. Moving to the center, Obama "will annoy liberals without winning himself much more support among independents." That doesn't leave much of a route to victory.

"Poll suggests risks for Obama if liberals feel taken for granted"

At least it's a sign of strong leadership: I'm not a fan of the tax deal, but "for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of President Obama," says Dana Milbank in The Washington Post. Congressional Democrats had ample time to deal with the Bush tax cuts, and when they didn't, Obama simply "cut them out of the negotiations." Bravo. If Obama keeps up this "forceful leadership" against whichever party is in the way, "he'll have a strong couple of years."

"Obama finally stands his ground"

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