With President Obama's approval ratings already in the tank and dropping fast, some Democrats are already wondering if another Democrat may challenge Obama in the 2012 question.
On his Chris Matthews Show on Sunday, the talk show host and his talking heads made such talk official -- and even suggested that President Obama could face a serious primary challenge from his party's left wing if conditions in Afghanistan continue to deteriorate.
"I've thought for a while that if Afghanistan goes south, that you could see an anti-war challenge to Obama," said New York magazine's John Heilemann.
"Who would that be? You could imagine conceivably somebody like [Wisconsin Democrat Sen.] Russ Feingold if he survives in the Senate race this year. [Former Sen.] Howard Dean is always out there."
But the strongest challenge to Obama from within his own party, Heilemann said, would come from his own secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.
"And her big problem, if she so wanted to take such a run at him, is that she's so deeply implicated in that Afghanistan policy. It's very hard for her to run against him from the left," Heilemann said.
MSNBC chief Washington correspondent Norah O'Donnell agreed that Clinton would be "the most formidable candidate." But she added "it's not likely he'll have a primary challenger."
Another panelist, columnist Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said a Democratic primary challenge to Obama appears unlikely.
"I don't see it. 2012 is a long way away for us, but I just don't see it now," Tucker said.
But Newsweek senior Washington correspondent and NBC analyst Howard Fineman said the likelihood of Obama facing a primary challenge "depends on whether you're thinking Jimmy Carter or not."
Explained Fineman, "Don't forget Jimmy Carter was challenged from the left by Ted Kennedy a generation ago. And Obama is not a party guy. That's what got him elected . . . he got elected because he wasn't a party guy.
"That makes him vulnerable to some kind of challenge from the liberal guts of the Democratic Party," Fineman concluded.
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