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Obama's Arkansas Opponent Eyes Primary Upset

1:50 PM, May 22, 2012 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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“We’ve had some small contributions, but the largest was, I think, maybe a hundred dollars,” says presidential candidate John Wolfe Jr., speaking to THE WEEKLY STANDARD. “I’m basically paying for this myself, dipping into my retirement account.”

John Wolfe

With those retirement savings, Wolfe may be buying an upset against the president of the United States in today’s Democratic primary in Arkansas. He won’t beat Barack Obama outright—not even Wolfe says that’s likely.

But even a strong second place could be enough to embarrass Obama just weeks after a federal inmate in Texas won 40 percent of the Democratic primary vote in West Virginia. A recent poll of Democrats in one of Arkansas’s congressional districts showed Wolfe only seven points behind Obama, with signs indicating Wolfe was gaining ground on the president. Not bad for a campaign with little organization, no budget for TV and radio ads, and a completely unknown candidate.

In the Louisiana primary earlier this year, Wolfe won 12 percent against Obama, although he won’t get any delegates to the national convention. (Wolfe says he’s fighting that decision in court and will challenge the Arkansas Democratic party's plans to discount any delegates he wins there, too.) In Arkansas, Wolfe says he needs to at least double his share of the vote to make a statement. “I think there’s a chance of getting higher than that,” he adds.

Some have dismissed Obama’s troubles in red states like Arkansas and West Virginia as inconsequential, but the previous Democratic president, Arkansas native Bill Clinton, won both states twice. Both states currently have Democratic governors, and Democrats have won several elections in these states in recent years. Wolfe says his underdog candidacy is the manifestation of a large number of Democrats’ frustration with Obama. 

“Now the people have a choice,” Wolfe says. “I think that the people think Obama isn’t listening to them.” He cites the doubletalk by Obama and national Democrats regarding private equity and Wall Street bankers.

“He criticizes Wall Street during the day, and at night he goes into these luxurious soirees with the bankers,” Wolfe says. “He leaves those meetings with millions.”

Wolfe argues that if the government can get health care costs under control and institute stricter banking regulations, many of the country’s remaining fiscal and economic problems can solve themselves. He says he supports restoring the Glass-Steagall banking act of 1933 and opening up the credit default markets, as well as a single-payer health care system that he says would alleviate the costs by getting rid of the expensive, high-risk pools.

“I think we overcomplicate the way we fix the economy,” Wolfe says.

Kentucky Democrats will also vote today, and while Wolfe isn't on the ballot there, there is a line for "uncommitted." Wolfe will also be on the ballot in next week's primary in Texas. 

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