March 23, 2011 | By Steve Chapman
By launching the war in Libya, President Obama has taken on a significant military risk -- and a big political one. Liberals in the Democratic party have been disappointed with him over health care (no public option), taxes (extending the Bush cuts even for the richest Americans) and his stimulus program (too small to be potent). But they've stuck with him.
Libya, however, could be the last straw with many Democrats. They could soon start looking for their Gene McCarthy -- a credible challenger who stands for peace. Obama's opposition to the Iraq war was his strongest credential for them in 2008, and they may take this war as a terrible betrayal.
That could be fatal to Obama's re-election prospects. Incumbent presidents can expect to get a second term unless they face serious primary opponents -- like Lyndon Johnson in 1968 (McCarthy), Jimmy Carter in 1980 (Ted Kennedy), and George H.W. Bush in 1992 (Pat Buchanan). A nasty intra-party fight is hard to recover from.
Who could lead a Democratic insurgency? Maybe Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. Maybe Jim Webb of Virginia. Or maybe someone who isn't well-known yet. But if things go badly in Libya, there's a good chance Obama will have to worry about a Democratic opponent before he faces a Republican.
JG: The answer to this rhetorical question is YES!, Barack Obama should be challenged from the left in 2102. He has not lived up to the expectations of the people who put him in the White House. On the Cuba issue he has continued to pander to the Miami right-wingers, by promoting and continuing the Cuba blockade/embargo. I would like to see Bernie Sanders run for President in 2012, as an independent.