Voters Shift on Iraq: Can We Still Win?

Picture This: It's October 2008. Hillary Clinton is leading the President race narrowly against Mike Huckabee. At their final debate in Hempstead, New York, Hillary is asked "Do you think the surge last summer worked?" Hillary answers that despite the drop in violence, there has been no political solution in Iraq and there needs to be more diplomacy. Governor Huckabee responds to Hillary, saying "But Senator, you did not support the surge. Now we have a chance at political reconciliation because of the surge, and you did not support it, you did not wish to give it a chance. You just wanted to cut and run"

A month late, Huckabee is President-elect, Democrats lose 10 seats in the House and gain only one seat in the Senate. Exit polls show voters perceived Democrats are weak on war because of their opposition to the surge. Voters forget that they too were opposed to it.

I've seen the recent polls that show no change in the number of Americans who think troops should come home within in a year. I've seen no change in support for the war, but I've also seen the recent polls that show support for the surge and even an uptick on whether or not the war was the right move in the first place. Now I've seen the front page of politico.com, who broke the Rudy Giuliani scandal the other day, with a story that showed voters are becoming less concerned with the war and more concerned with other issues;

Rep. Jim Cooper, a moderate Democrat from Tennessee, said not a single constituent has asked about the war during his nearly two-week long Thanksgiving recess. Rep. Michael E. Capuano, an anti-war Democrat from Massachusetts, said only three of 64 callers on a town hall teleconference asked about Iraq, a reflection that the war may be losing power as a hot-button issue in his strongly Democratic district.

First-term Rep. Nancy Boyda (D-Kan.) -- echoing a view shared by many of her colleagues -- said illegal immigration and economic unease have trumped the Iraq war as the top-ranking concerns of her constituents

Economic issues favor Democrats, but illegal immigration does not. Can we really count on the war as an issue next year? American people are notably fickle. They can quickly change their opinion on an issue on a dime and hold responsible the very people who supported the popular opinion. In May, Congress' approval rating plummeted because they didn't cut funding to the war. Will Congress' approval rating continue to plummet, only because they did not support the surge? Will the GOP be able to use an "I told you so" campaign tactic? Will the Brian Baird opinion begin to filter into the voting population?

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm not comfortable with hinging our electoral victories on whether or not all hell breaks lose in Iraq again

Tags: 110th congress, 2008 House Elections, 2008 Presidential election, 2008 Senate Elections, Hillary Clinton, Iraq War, KS-2, Mike Huckabee, war funding (all tags)

Comments

6 Comments

Re: Voters Shift on Iraq: Can We Still Win?

All the recent polling has shown that while there is a marginal uptick in the number of people who think things are going better in Iraq, there is no change whatsoever in the number of people who want to end the war.  In other words, people may think it's getting better, but it makes no difference to them.

You may be right that there's a diminution of intensity when it comes to opposing the war.  That's fine, because Democrats are positioned to clean up on the economic and domestic issues.  You might recall that we did pretty well back in the 90s when national security wasn't a major issue.

However, there's not going to be a "Bush was right" moment, and people should stop worrying about it.  The prospects for an Iraqi political reconciliation are hopeless.  And the odds are very slim that we're going to be able to maintain major force levels in Iraq from now until the next election without significant violence breaking out again, unfortunately.

All the available evidence suggests that there is no chance of public opinion shifting towards a "stay the course" position.  People are done with this war.  

by Steve M 2007-11-30 08:02AM | 0 recs
Steve M is right, people have made up...

...their minds on Iraq.  A solid majority know it wasn't justified and was a bad decision in the first place, AND that it's gone too badly for too long.  Those realizations trump all else.

I think MAYBE a majority even realize that the "things are better" narrative is illusory because we're really just back we were for most of the war when casualties and Iraqi deaths were about where they are now, and Americans were unhappy with the war's progress even then.  Just because people acknowledge things are going "better than they were" doesn't mean they think things are going "well."  In fact they don't.

Iraq will still be a big issue in 2008 and will hurt Rethugs.  It just might not be AS big as in 2006.

Oh, and don't assume Iraq won't still regress.  Dubya still has to either extend deployment lengths EVEN FURTHER to keep the escalation going after the spring OR return to 2006 troop levels and HOPE that violence doesn't escalate in response.  Those are both real bad choices for his party.

by DCCyclone 2007-11-30 08:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Voters Shift on Iraq: Can We Still Win?


There's a widespread Democratic belief that Iraq was their winning issue in the 2006 elections and a similarly widespread Republican one that illegal immigration is a winning issue for themselves.  

Neither of them is actually true.  They're emotional, righteous things for the activists, but where they have effect is pretty localized or selective- military families, places where Latinos have recently become the most visible non-white minority.

On Iraq, there's always a lull and a massive wishful thinking-based increase of hope in victory between rounds.  The game being played is one of musical chairs of warlords until only one ruler remains.  Every round seems the combatants get more efficient and smarter and better armed.

In Iraq we're down to relatively few real players- the previous rounds eliminated or subordinated most of them.  But the Sunni-Shiite problem remains unresolved.  The people tired of it all pretend to themselves that it can be settled with an armistice.  Thing is, civil wars end only with one side destroying entirely the other side's ability and desire to dominate to the extent of resorting to violence to fulfill it.  (The winning side's desire to do so neutralizes as well, as it comes to understand how little worth domination really has.)  We can pretend that the Sunnis of Iraq have given up that aspiration, and we can pretend that the Shiite side is no longer driven to crush them.  But it isn't so.  The key component of the game is now the Maliki government, which is a blatant Shiite front.

On illegal immigration...the phenomenon in public is that race and class resentments are coming to the surface and nationalist entitlement thinking is coming out in the form of rage.

It's not entirely racism or greed or fear, but a classism that in good times Those People are invited to come do our dirty manual labor on the cheap and in bad times we can just send them back to the slums they come from to waste away, unworthy as they are of our time and money and concern.  But over the years they have become a part of our collective American endeavor, though, and more so than just economically.

A few lesser politicians- Tancredo and such- are willing to play with the fire, lay on the few logs not already in it, and surf the wave of cognitive dissonance, hypocrisy, resentment, and mistaken entitlement.  The major politicians are standing by the fire, warming themselves by it and waiting until the emotional fuel is spent.

by killjoy 2007-11-30 10:19AM | 0 recs
Re: Voters Shift on Iraq: Can We Still Win?

Say what you will, but every time there's a poll, Iraq is right up there at the top of the list of issues respondents identify as most important to them.  It's not just military families who think it's a big deal.

by Steve M 2007-11-30 10:23AM | 0 recs
killjoy you're WRONG about Iraq & 2006......

It's simply not disputable that Iraq was THE primary issue to decide 2006 in Democrats' favor.

This notion that the war's impact was limited to selective groups is silly.  ALL polling showed that the war and Republican corruption were the primary factors in voting behavior.

The only people who think 2006 voters en masse weren't voting on Iraq are delusional folks in the White House.

by DCCyclone 2007-11-30 11:14AM | 0 recs
Hey,

Next Year still does figure to be about Iraq, upstaged possibly by the mortgage crisis.  Both favor us!

by Todd Bennett 2007-11-30 11:56AM | 0 recs

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