I think Matt Bai makes some good points about the difference between saying that Barack Obama’s political opinions aren’t substantively left-of-center and saying that Obama doesn’t adopt a populist rhetorical style. But the piece goes a bit off the rails when it starts talking about the possibility of a from-the-left primary challenge to Obama.
Thanks to a much-changed media landscape over the past ten years, you now see a reasonable amount of somewhat high-profile from-the-left criticism of Obama. You’ve got Paul Krugman on the op-ed page, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow on MSNBC prime time, you’ve got the activist blogosphere, and you’ve got reporters like Bai paying some attention to these critics. And I think that’s all a good thing. But one should always keep in mind that the whole “Obama isn’t liberal enough” concept is very much a niche idea. In mid-December, CNN polled on this question:
“Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as president?” If disapprove: “Do you disapprove because you think his policies and actions since he became president have been too liberal, or because you think his policies and actions have not been liberal enough?“
Among self-identified Democrats, about eighty percent say they approve of the job Obama is doing. There’s just no way a primary challenge could get off the ground.