This sense of reality is somewhat unheard of. In a ZDF summer-interview yesterday evening, SPD federal chairman, Sigmar "Arch-Angel" Gabriel, unambigously praised his major two 'competitors' for a SPD-led chancellorship, Frank-Walter Steinmeier (former Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Affairs' Minister) and Peer Steinbrück (former NRW-Governor and former Federal Finance Minister), both in Merkel's first grand-coalition 2005-2009.
You may have rubbed your eyes and didn't trust your ears. But yea, Gabriel (former state governor of Lower Saxony) acknowledged Steinmeier's and Steinbrück's performances in highest possible tunes.
Well, the decision in terms of "who will be running against Angie?" is far from over.
According to Gabriel, the SPD-candidate for becoming Germany's next chancellor shall be nominated after the "Lower Saxony State Assembly" election in January 2013.
"Early nomination would lead to attrition" is the over-arching opinion in high SPD-circles on state or federal party levels.
Well, not quite unanimously uttered.
The "SPD northern lights", namely the state governor of the northernmost German coastal federal state of Schleswig-Holstein (SH) - between the seas -, Torsten Albig and the Kiel-based Bundestag MoP, Hans-Peter Bartels, have their special bits of advice for the federal party big-heads who shall become Germany's SPD-chancellor.
The newly elected SH-governor Albig is strongly in favor of Steinmeier who lost against Merkel in 2009 with the worst SPD Bundestag result whereas Bartels endorses Steinbrück, the most intransigent German federal minister for the treasury ever. The Swiss almost declared him as "state enemy #1" when he nudged them to compliance in terms of controversial Swiss-German tax affairs.
See, the "Arch-Angel" is left behind, the candidate has been having no score with the relevant "fish heads" so far.
Oddly enough, Albig was a buddy of Steinbrück's at the federal treasury, first his speaker then ministerial director - one notch below vice-minister which is called state secretary. Promoted to become Kiel's mayor (of SH's state capital with some 250.000 residents) three years ago, he got the ultimate chance of becoming SH's governor and succeeded as head of a three party coalition SPD - Greens - Danish minority party SSW.
Obviously Albig wants Steinbrück as finance minister again.
Hans-Peter Bartels is in favor of Steinbrück as chancellor - a concrete-head that would be a boon for Germany in terms of showing strength towards the federal SPD "soft-eggs" who are willing to kow-tow to any demands of social-democratic, socialist led-governments in southern Europe at the expense of German national interests.
My personal bet is Steinmeier.
#1 Gabriel has disqualified himself several times and even admitted his status as 3rd choice in that respective public TV interview.
#2 Steinbrück is a financial hardliner. Not only would he cause trouble with his green coalition partners, he would also put his "elephant weight" of financial and economic knowledge in the ring - a fact that would surely cause earthquakes with "euro"-partners.
#3 Steinmeier is the role-model for compromising. The medium soft-eggs in the SPD higher levels will rather dump Gabriel the "supreme softie" than make foes in the EU socialist movement.
But time will tell which direction the SPD is heading.
Expect no SPD-decision prior to February 2013.