Usually the presidential primaries don't generate much news when the candidates are running unopposed. Up until now, Barack Obama has had the proverbial "free shot" at renomination and there is no reason to believe that won't continue. It's a little late for anyone to get into the race.
That said, some of the recent primaries have produced results that should give him and his campaign cause for concern.
In West Virginia, a convicted felon serving time in Texas—Keith Russell Judd—beat the president in 10 counties and won just enough of the vote, according to some analyses, to win at least one delegate to the upcoming national convention.
In Arkansas—the home state of a recent former Democratic president and one that has resisted as the rest of the South has moved firmly into the GOP column at the state and local level—Obama took only 58 percent against a "no name" opponent who posted a respectable 42 percent of the vote.
In Kentucky, Obama carried the state with 58 percent of the vote, but "uncommitted" took 42 percent—while carrying a handful of counties. Not enough to make a difference, obviously, but enough to signal that the president has problems in these traditionally "blue" areas.
There are a number of reasons for this but one of the most obvious is the way the Obama administration has waged a war on coal, the nation's most abundant domestic energy source. Under Obama the Environmental Protection Agency is trying to issue regulations that would, in essence, force most of all the coal-fired electricity generating plants to shut down. No plants, no coal. No coal, no jobs for the miners and loaders and others who depend on it for their livelihoods—many of whom happen to live in Kentucky and West Virginia.
Now most analysts think that these two states will be solidly for the Republican candidate—most likely former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney—in the fall, so there's little worry for the president there. But there are other states—Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia come to mind—that also have large coal industries which generate thousands if not tens of thousands of jobs. These states are all on the target list for both parties. The Republicans probably can't win without Ohio. Obama can't win without Pennsylvania. And there is more than one political analyst who says that the candidate who carries Virginia wins the race.
Obama is still the favorite, though Romney has already made it close in most all the national polls. As the race tightens it narrows the president's margin for error. The anti-coal positions he's taken since coming into office is one of those errors, something that can't be fixed because it's established policy. The portion of the electorate impacted by it has already made up its mind—and a bunch of those want a Texas felon to be the party's nominee instead of Obama, or at least willing to vote that way at least once. The question now is how much more of his base can Obama afford to lose?