Bill Nelson Is Asking For Trouble

One of the key reasons that Democrats lost in 2010 was that they did little to inspire their base and that base didn’t volunteer, contribute or vote at the same rates that they did in 2008. Bill Nelson saw those election results and rightfully decided that it would be legitimate to criticize Barack Obama for those results, since it’s obvious that Obama’s failure to inspire the base was a key factor in the election. Nelson’s problem, though, is that he ignored all the actual facts about people’s disappointment with the president and proceeded to attack Obama — from the right. If he continues down this path, he’ll guarantee that he, meaning Nelson, won’t be re-elected in 2012, and he’ll probably cost Obama Florida at the same time, which could lead to a president named Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee or, shudder to think, Sarah Palin.

While some of Nelson’s criticisms — about NASA and the oil spill, for instance — might be credible, a lot of what Nelson is saying is not. For instance:

“Nelson told colleagues Obama‚Äôs unpopularity has become a serious liability for Democrats in his state and blamed the president for creating a toxic political environment for Democrats nationwide, according to two Democrats familiar with his remarks.

If you look at Nelson’s other comments, it’s clear he’s not attack the president from the left. And there are serious problems with this statement, such as the fact that the week before the election, Obama’s approval rating was 54%, much higher than Nelson’s, or Democrats in general, and higher than previous presidents on both sides of the aisle at the same point in their presidency. It’s obvious that Obama’s effect on the election was to make the left-wing base apathetic because he didn’t go far enough to the left and that voters in general blamed Obama, rightly or wrongly, for the fact that the economy hasn’t rebounded quickly enough.

Nelson will make a huge mistake if he runs against Obama in 2012, particularly if he runs against Obama from the right. If he does, it almost guarantees that 2012 in Florida will be just like 2010 — voters on the left will be apathetic and will stay home. It’s clear that for Democrats to win in Florida in 2012, we have to get the base excited. If the highest elected Democrat in the state runs to the right, that won’t happen and we’ll all lose again.


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3 thoughts on “Bill Nelson Is Asking For Trouble

  1. Who says these comments mean Nelson is running against Obama from the left? I wrote about this on my blog and consider this exactly the type of watchdogging a Senator should do for a president within his own party.

    Nelson is supporting NASA. That, if anything, is a position to the left of Obama. And he knows Florida is frustrated by Obama’s handling of BP. You didn’t mention Nelson’s complaints about Obama’s foreclosure program doing more to help the banks than homeowners, which again is the more progressive position to hold. Indeed, every single criticism I heard Nelson leveled in the caucus was a call for more government support and oversight, fundamental parts of the Democratic agenda.

    It is still 2010, so it’s a little early to say Nelson is running against Obama. I think he is trying to straighten the course of a confused and distracted administration. But if this is an affront on Obama, it is one from the left, and I welcome that.

  2. Like I said above, those particular criticisms are legit, but I’m not sure they are from the left. The BP criticism seems to be a competence one, which is nonideological in nature. The NASA comments don’t seem more progressive to me, in that my understanding of Obama’s stance on NASA is to focus more on long-term investment than in short-term gain. If that’s a valid assessment, then Nelson’s comments are solely about saving jobs in Florida so he can save his job. That may be legitimate, but it isn’t progressive. I haven’t seen the foreclosure comments, so I can speculate on them.

    That being said, his comments about Obama hurting the Democratic brand are certainly from the right and there are multiple reports from different sources of Nelson running to the right such as this one (although it is speculation): and a number of reports that I’ve received off the record. It would not at all be out of character for Nelson to run to the right and I think we should be warning him against that.

    Certainly, I have no problem with criticizing Obama from the left if the criticism is accurate, but I have a big problem with Obama being criticized from the right.

  3. Nelson ran in 2000 (the last time he was in a serious contest) as an Al Gore moderate, mostly because Al Gore was on the same ballot. I certainly expect him to hold some positions to the right of Obama, but not necessarily to run against Obama. For example, no statewide candidate in Florida anytime soon will stray too far from the right on issues with Cuba or Israel.

    Obama wants to make cuts in NASA right now. I don’t personally think that is such a bad thing, but it is a government-cutting approach, and therefore more conservative.

    I am all for criticizing Nelson if goes too far left, and on plenty or corporatist issues like the tax cuts for the rich, it will happen. But based on what was reported from the party caucus meetings, I think Nelson was attacking Obama from the left. And right now, I think he hopes to get both himself and Obama in a place where winning Florida in 2012 is easy. For now, I like what he’s doing.

    But I’ll change my tune should I turn out to be wrong. We will see.