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Ed Rendell: Obama Could Get Primary Challenge in 2012

Gov. Ed Rendell, D-Pa., on "Face The Nation."
Gov. Ed Rendell, D-Pa., on "Face The Nation." CBS

There has been plenty of speculation about which Republicans will enter the race to challenge President Obama in the 2012 presidential elections.

But on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" yesterday, Democratic Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell threw a curveball into the discussion when he suggested that Mr. Obama could face a challenge from within his own party if he were to escalate U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.

While the governor didn't point to any specific potential primary challengers, he implied that Mr. Obama would need to keep his word on beginning to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in July 2011 to avoid a challenge from the left.

"[A primary challenge] is really possible," Rendell told Pat Buchanan. "It depends on how far it [the war in Afghanistan] deteriorates."

He added: "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."

A recent CBS News poll showed growing discontent with the war in Afghanistan: Sixty-two percent of Americans believe things are going badly there, and 33 percent of Americans (including 42 percent of Democrats) say they are only willing to have large numbers of troops in Afghanistan for at most one more year.

It is unlikely that even a significant primary challenge to Mr. Obama would get much traction, but it could generate enormous press coverage and distract his reelection campaign at a time when it wants to be focused on the eventual general election fight.