The showdown with Syria has taken a toll on President Obama's standing with the electorate. Only 40 percent approve of his handling of foreign affairs -- the lowest number ever for him.
But the political fallout of the crisis goes beyond the incumbent. It could also have a big effect on his heir apparent, Hillary Clinton. She came out today in favor of the strikes Obama wants to carry out, and if things go badly, that decision will come back to haunt her -- as her vote for the Iraq war did in 2008. It would invite a challenge in the Democratic primary from someone opposed to the Syria attack.
Adding to the fuel for an insurgency is her role in an administration that has implemented the massive National Security Agency surveillance program, which many Democratic voters find reminiscent of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. That, along with Syria, has spread disenchantment with Obama. It's hard to believe that the disenchanted will happily turn over the party nomination to Clinton -- not if they have an alternative.
Who would have the credentials, the positions and the stature to offer a serious alternative? At the moment, the most credible one who comes to mind is Mark Udall, a US senator from Colorado who has criticized the NSA programs. But he hasn't taken a position yet on Syria. And given the historic appeal of nominating a woman for the first time, the ideal opponent would be female. Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kirsten Gillibrand both look like possible candidates at some point, but they too are on the fence.
I'm betting someone will enter the race rejecting Clinton's views on both these issues. And if it's the right person, as Obama proved, she may prove far less inevitable than she looks.