By ALAN FRAM
WASHINGTON (AP) - Democratic voters are closely divided over whether President Barack Obama should be challenged within the party for a second term in 2012, an Associated Press-Knowledge Networks Poll finds.
That glum assessment carries over into the nation at large, which is similarly divided over whether Obama should be a one-term president.
A real Democratic challenge to Obama seems unlikely at this stage and his re-election bid is a long way off. But the findings underscore how disenchanted his party has grown heading into the congressional elections Tuesday.
The AP-KN poll has tracked a group of people and their views since the beginning of the 2008 presidential campaign. Among all 2008 voters, 51 percent say he deserves to be defeated in November 2012 while 47 percent support his re-election _ essentially a tie.
Among Democrats, 47 percent say Obama should be challenged for the 2012 nomination and 51 percent say he should not be opposed. Those favoring a contest include most who backed Hillary Rodham Clinton's unsuccessful faceoff against Obama for the 2008 nomination. The poll did not ask if Democrats would support particular challengers.
Political operatives and polling experts caution that Obama's poll standings say more about people's frustrations today with the economy and other conditions than they do about his re-election prospects. With the next presidential election two years away _ an eon in politics _ the public's view of Obama could easily improve if the economy revives or if he outmaneuvers Republicans on Capitol Hill or in the presidential campaign.
"Democrats currently disappointed with Obama will likely be less disappointed if he spends the next two years fighting a GOP Congress" should Republicans do well on Election Day, said Charles Franklin, a University of Wisconsin political science professor and polling analyst.
Even so, the poll illustrates how Obama's reputation has frayed since 2008. It suggests lingering bad feelings from Democrats' bitter primary fight, when he and Clinton _ now his secretary of state _ roughly split the popular vote. Political professionals of both parties said the findings are a warning for the president, whose formal re-election effort is expected to begin stirring next year.
"It's an indicator of things he needs to address between now and then," said Kiki McLean, a Democratic strategist who worked in Clinton's 2008 campaign.
The White House declined comment on the results.
Alan note: something that could knock Obama down, maybe out, has started to brew in South Carolina. Watch the news.