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Will Obama's rift with the left matter?

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“Obama’s problem is not with the base, it’s with the center,” said Mr. Hart at a Dec. 8 Monitor breakfast with reporters. Speaking of the tax compromise, he added, “I’m sure he helped himself with independent voters at this stage of the game.”

In 2008, Obama campaigned on restoring bipartisanship to Washington, and after nearly two years in office, had little to show for it. Now he has no choice if he wants to get anything done, with Republicans soon to take over the House and gain seats in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Still, it’s hard to listen to some voices on the left and not wonder if Obama is treading on thin ice.

“This fight over the Bush tax breaks for the rich may well be a tipping point in terms of how progressives feel,” says Justin Ruben, executive director of “What people saw was just preemptive capitulation from the president on something he knew and we all knew was wrong.”

Mr. Ruben says it was Obama’s “moral vision” that inspired the grass roots to work for him and donate money two years ago. But going forward, “if you have no foot soldiers and no grass-roots donors, how are you going to win?” he says.

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