Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell predicted on Tuesday that if the president escalates America's military involvement in Afghanistan he could very well face a primary challenger in 2012.
In an overlooked "Morning Joe" segment on Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Democrat offered his distinct brand of eccentric, conversation-driving political foresight. He couched his statement about the possibility of a primary challenge by stressing that if Obama sticks to his current plans for Afghanistan -- a reduced military presence beginning in July of 2011 -- there would not be political insurrection within the party.
But Rendell clearly opened up the conversation as to how much capital Obama is working with when it comes to foreign wars. And for perhaps the first time in the course of the Afghanistan debate, the specter was raised that Democrats will really take the president to task for a military commitment that is too long, too costly, or too heavy.
PAT BUCHANAN: [Anti-Vietnam sentiment] drew an anti-war candidate, Eugene McCarthy, first into the New Hampshire primary, and after he did fairly well with 42%, it drew Robert Kennedy in against their own president, tore the Democratic Party apart, and led, of course, to a Republican era. If the president is still hanging in to Afghanistan in 2011, 2012, do you see an anti-war candidate coming out of the Democratic Party?
ED RENDELL: It's possible, Pat. It really depends on how far it deteriorates [emphasis mine]. But on the other hand, if troop withdrawal begins in 2011, if there's some signs that we're trying to get out of there, and I heard, I think you were talking about, if there are only 3,000 American troops, we still have a presence. But if we start to begin to reduce our presence, I think that's probably enough to keep an anti-war candidate out of the race."
Of course, discussing the political landscape in 2012 is sheer speculation. And it's difficult to tell just what would meet Rendell's definition for "deterioration" -- or for that matter, what a serious primary challenge would resemble (an anti-war House member, for example, certainly could run but he or she may not rip apart the party like Eugene McCarthy did during the Vietnam era).
Democrats already have aired their grievances with the course and the cost of the Afghan war, most notably by gathering votes against war funding. A primary challenger in 2012, while a sexy topic for political conversation, still seems like a bridge too far.