But that hasn’t stopped some high-profile Democrats from thinking out loud about both possibilities.
First came Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D), who suggested last week on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that Obama could face a challenge from the left if he does not begin to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan in July 2011, as promised.
A primary challenge “is really possible,” Governor Rendell said, without naming names. “It depends on how far [the war in Afghanistan] deteriorates.”
And by the way, Rendell also opined that Obama shouldn’t have agreed to go on “The View.“ “There's got to be a little bit of dignity to the presidency,” Rendell grumbled.
Then on Monday, CNN asked Rendell about the “potential primary challenger” thing. Oh, that. The two-term Pennsylvania governor and former Democratic National Committee chairman suggested that what he had said before wasn’t a big deal. Then he kept talking.
“There might be a challenger but it would be from the fringe wing of the party, not from any substantial challenger,” he said. “I don't think [Wisconsin Sen.] Russ Feingold is going to do it and I don't think in the end Howard will do it, although I think Howard will think about it, but I don't think he will do it.”
That would be Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, former national party chair, and a 2004 presidential candidate whose campaign took off over Iraq. No word yet on whether the thought of running in 2012 has in fact crossed Mr. Dean’s mind.
But it’s all enough to make you wonder, what’s up with Rendell? He’s always had a habit of saying what he thinks, and maybe now, in his final months in office, he’s even less guarded. And it’s not as if he was ever a huge Obama person. During the 2008 Democratic primaries, he vigorously backed Hillary Clinton.
Still, there’s not been a hint that Secretary of State Clinton is actually considering such a disloyal act as challenging the boss for the top spot in 2012. (Though former Monitor editor John Hughes suggested the possibility in an Aug. 2 column.)
Equally as unlikely is a suggestion from former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder (D) that Obama might do well to replace Biden on the ticket with ... Hillary Clinton.
Mr. Wilder, the first elected black governor in the country, thinks Biden’s gaffe habit hurts Obama and that putting Clinton on the ticket would bring back Obama’s 2008 themes of audacity and change. Wilder gives Clinton high marks for her performance at State, and suggests she could help Obama win back middle-class independents. Clinton also has far higher job approval ratings (above 60 percent) than both Obama and Biden (mired in the 40s).
The idea of swapping out veeps often surfaces when a first-term president is struggling (see Bush-Quayle 1992 and Bush-Cheney 1996), but in modern times it’s never happened. It could make the president look disloyal and flaky. And besides, political scientists remind us, voters don’t vote for the veep, they vote for the top of the ticket.
And what’s up with Wilder? He is fiercely independent. In July 2009, when Obama was doing whatever he could to help Democrat Creigh Deeds win his Virginia gubernatorial race, the White House dispatched political director Patrick Gaspard to Richmond to urge Wilder to endorse Mr. Deeds and help turn out the critical black vote.
“Tell me what the man has done?” Wilder said, according to Politico. “I haven’t heard it.”
Wilder never endorsed Deeds, who lost to now-Gov. Bob McDonnell (R).