THE BLOG
11/10/2010 01:06 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Will Obama Face a Democratic Challenger?

It has happened before when sitting presidents have been unpopular.

President Jimmy Carter faced a strong and lengthy challenge for the Oval Office from the late Senator Ted Kennedy in 1980. Kennedy, who was the emotional favorite of the crowd at Madison Square Garden at the Democratic National Convention in the summer of 1980, won ten primaries against Carter. Kennedy, whose theme was "Against the Wind," ran against Carter from the left in the Democratic Party. Carter, of course, won the Democratic nomination only to lose the general election to Ronald Reagan.

Reagan, in 1976, almost wrestled the nomination away from sitting president Gerald Ford. With a slow start, the former California governor began to win late primaries garnering conservative support against Ford.

Reagan came within 60 votes at the GOP Convention in Kansas City in 1976 as he came so very close to knocking off a sitting president in his own party.

Senators Gene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy both challenged the incumbent president Lyndon Johnson in 1968. With the Vietnam War raging as the main campaign issue LBJ withdrew from running after McCarthy's strong showing in the New Hampshire primary.

Kennedy went on to win crucial primaries in Indiana, Nebraska and California and many historians felt he was on his way to winning the Democratic nomination when he was tragically assassinated in Los Angeles after winning the Golden State primary.

So there is definitely a precedent in current American political history to see an incumbent president challenged by someone in his own party. Obviously, this only happens when the sitting president is sliding in the polls.

And, today Obama is going down in the polls because of the stagnant economy, terrible unemployment numbers, record home foreclosures and an overall anger at the rising deficit and large government programs. The record number of GOP seats won in re-capturing the House of Representatives is an early indicator of the trouble the president faces in 2012.

Obama is ripe for being challenged within his own party from the left and from the right. The only question is who would challenge a personally popular president presiding over unpopular policies?

The liberal outgoing senator from Wisconsin Russ Feingold will have time on his hands after leaving the senate next year. Liberals could rally behind him as a protest against the president not following through on a public option in the health care bill and for sending more American troops to Afghanistan and expanding our role in the fighting.

Also, the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will be losing her position also in the new GOP controlled House in 2011. She could turn out a lot of Democratic voters for a left wing challenge to the president. It seems improbable but after covering politics for many decades nothing can ever be ruled out.

Probably the most popular Democrat in the country at the moment has already served two terms as president and cannot run again. Former President Bill Clinton was the hottest Democrat in the 2010 midterm campaigns but he cannot legally run again for his old job.

And his wife the Secretary of State is spending more time out of the country than in the United States these days. There has been speculation that she might replace Biden on the ticket in 2012. There is always speculation that she could make another try at the White House and have a better shot in 2012 than she did in 2008. But she seems to be a loyal and key member of the Obama Administration. However, as we said nothing can be ruled out in politics especially when the president has declining poll numbers.

On the right a possible challenger could be retiring United States Senator Evan Bayh. He is leaving the senate because it is too polarized. He has spoken out against some of the president's policies as being too liberal in the past.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a presidential contender in 2008, is leaving his job next year and would be available to challenge the president in the 2012 primaries. Richardson would bring his foreign policy background along with his years as a western governor to the table and could present a possible challenge to Obama.

And, if the new and popular new governor of New York Andrew Cuomo wants to not wait his turn to run for president in four or eight years he could break away from Albany and make a surprise challenge to the incumbent president.

Finally, the colorful, talkative and outgoing governor of Pennsylvania Ed Rendell, a former chairman of the DNC, would make for an interesting presidential candidate. However, he might be of better use to the Democrats as a future White House Chief of Staff.

If unemployment soars above 10% and Obama's poll rating fall below 40% the improbability of a Democratic challenger for the nomination will most definitely rise.

And, the challenge might be taken up someone not mentioned above so stay tuned for a possible Democratic power struggle that could happen. It probably won't... but it just might happen!