According to the Thursday edition of the Rheinische Post, the SPD leadership will decide who will challenge Chancellor Angela Merkel next year in the next eight weeks.
Apparently the centre-left Social Democrats, currently junior coalition partners to Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats, believe picking their chancellor candidate early is the only way to stop the party's freefall in opinion polls.
SPD deputy leader and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is reportedly considered by many in the party as the person with the best shot at the candidacy, since he's the only Social Democrat with approval ratings close to those of Merkel.
The newspaper reported that the SPD leadership only believes it can stay in power after 2009 if party boss Kurt Beck willingly allows Steinmeier to be the Social Democratic chancellor candidate.
“It would be the responsible thing,” the paper cited an unnamed member of the government as saying. “But the SPD doesn't always do what's responsible.”