For all the focus on economic issues in the wake of the crisis of 2008 the Obama administration has remained ambiguous about a central component of economic policy. As both candidate and President, Obama has sent mixed messages about trade policy. This ambiguity reflects wider uncertainty within the Democratic Party about global trading relationships and this paper explores and assesses the reasons for this uncertainty. A large part of the answer lies in the disparate sources of support for the Democrats. That is, the party has courted support from interest groups and core groups of voters that have widely divergent views about the value of trade liberalisation.