Artur Davis, at one time a Democrat representing Alabama's 7th Congressional District from 2003 to 2010, has decided to leave the Democratic Party. Furthermore, while undecided about the possibility of running for office in the future, Davis said on his website,"If I were to run, it would be as a Republican." The question is, should such a departure be of any major concern to President Obama's reelection campaign? To answer that question, we need to look more closely at Davis and the type of Democrat he was.
Davis was the 1st Democrat in Congress outside the state of Illinois to endorse then Senator Obama for president in 2008. Even with that endorsement, though, it should not be assumed that Davis was a liberal Democrat; he was not. While he was with his party on most votes, on other core issues he went against the majority of Democrats.
For instance in 2003, NARAL (formerly National Abortion Rights League) gave Davis a 30% rating which for them meant a predominantly pro-life record. In 2004, he voted 'Yes' on passage of the Bush Administration national energy policy. Also in 2004, Davis voted 'Yes' on a Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage. In 2005, he voted 'Yes' on prohibiting product misuse lawsuits on gun manufacturers. In 2008, Davis voted 'No' on a bailout for GM and Chrysler. Davis was a Democrat, but a Democrat with an independent streak.
He was also a Democrat on the rise. In 2008, Esquire Magazine named him one of the 10 Best Congressmen in America. His congressional career ended in 2010, when he decided to run for Governor in Alabama. Unfortunately for Davis, he lost in the Democratic primary in his bid to become the first black elected governor in the Deep South. Currently Davis lives in Virginia and is a columnist and commentator across various media (i.e. contributor to Politico’s Arena, the National Review Online, guest analyst on MSNBC, CNBC and the Fox Business Network). While he hasn't committed to running for office again, at age 44 he is still very young and it would not be surprising at all to see him on the campaign trail in the near future (he says as a Republican).
President Obama's supporters will try to minimize the Davis departure as not a big deal, and while Davis was not 100% with Democrats on all votes or issues, it's still very tough to spin this as not being a big deal. The Davis departure is an embarrassment to the Obama campaign and reveals a potential split amongst enough Democrats which could prove decisive in November. Not that the GOP doesn't have similar problems within their party. They do, and I will be talking about that in a future column.