By Michael O'Brien - 09/08/11 12:03 PM EDT
President Obama's reelection chances are no better than a toss-up, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) suggested Thursday.
Lieberman, an Independent senator who caucuses with Democrats, warned against counting Obama out in 2012, but suggested that the two leading Republicans contenders would be "credible candidates."
"Just going by the numbers — the rate of unemployment in the country, the lagging growth in our economy and of course the public opinion polls — the election next year, in my opinion, is a toss-up," Lieberman said on MSNBC.com's "Press Pass," a weekly online feature produced by "Meet the Press."
Lieberman backed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) over Obama in the 2008 presidential election, and has been occasionally willing to buck the president on certain key issues, often to the frustration of the Democrats with whom he caucuses.
The Connecticut senator opted not to seek reelection in 2012, and has said he's undecided in terms of whether he'll back Obama for reelection or endorse the president's Republican challenger for a second straight cycle. Lieberman named both Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) as the leading candidates to challenge Obama.
"I think that either one of them, just stepping back as an independent, looking at it, either Gov. Perry or Gov. Romney are credible candidates," he said. "And it would be one heck of a battle with President Obama."
But Republicans shouldn't get too cocky, Lieberman warned.
"The president faces a tough fight," he said. "But don't count him out, because he still is the president, and as long as you're president, a lot of things can change in your favor."