Attitudes on Iraq are changing

This is fantastic news:

WASHINGTON — The perception that the U.S. troop surge in Iraq has succeeded is changing some public views of the war, potentially blunting Democrats’ political edge on the issue.

Americans continue to judge the nearly five-year-old U.S. invasion of Iraq as a mistake, by margins that have barely budged. But in a notable shift, public perceptions of the current U.S. military effort there “have become significantly more positive over the past several months,” says a recent report from the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. It shows that almost half of Americans think the war effort is going well, and that the U.S. should keep its troops there, at least for the time being. Other polls echo the trend to varying degrees.

The results suggest that — barring another reversal in conditions — Democrats’ ability to use the war as a political weapon could be somewhat curtailed, particularly when the general-election campaign begins.

In part because of the shift in sentiment on the war, Democrats have turned more frequently to other issues — particularly the weakening economy. That has been true both on the campaign trail and on Capitol Hill.

The recent change in public opinion appears pronounced among independent voters, and independents who see progress in Iraq are much more likely to support Republican John McCain, at least so far.

In the short run, the change also could be helping Hillary Clinton gain a measure of traction against Barack Obama, a persistent war critic who has scored by pointing to her vote in favor of authorizing the war.

The lessening of concerns over the war “is one thing that has enabled her to stave off the Obama onslaught” as long as she has, says Ruy Teixeira, a public-opinion expert at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.


In the most in-depth picture of the trend, the Pew report says that about half the public (48%) now says the Iraq war effort is going either very well or fairly well. That compares to a more than 2-1 majority who said it was going badly a year ago. Nearly half (47%) say the U.S. should keep its troops in Iraq until the situation there has stabilized — roughly the same as those (49%) who favor bringing troops home as soon as possible. A year ago, 53% favored rapid withdrawal versus 42% who favored keeping the troops in Iraq.

Pollsters first noticed an uptick in public perceptions of the war in the fall. But the change in February “struck me as, ‘Wow,'” said Andrew Kohut, the Pew Research Center director. The U.S. troop surge during 2007 sent 30,000 additional combat troops to Iraq to help quell growing violence. The last of the surge troops are scheduled to be withdrawn this summer.

Not only is it encouraging news for our troops, first and foremost, who need to know that Americans are behind them, but as the WSJ noted, it could be a thorn in the side mainly for BO but to a lesser extent, Hillary. Last night in Hillary’s victory speech in OH, she carefully worded her comments about Iraq, saying she would work to “end” the war in Iraq and “win” the war in Afghanistan. BO continues to harp that he was right on Iraq because of his 2002 speech, and the promise from him is to withdraw from Iraq in order to focus more on Afghanistan. The more the American people see the surge is working in Iraq and get a glimpse of the trickling of the good news the mediots are reporting about what’s happening, and see less reports of massive explosions, road side bombs, etc, then BO and Hillary both are going to have a tough sell with respect to their positions on Iraq.

McCain has a clear national security advantage and knows this, because the focal point of his speech last night was winning the war on terror, including the war in Iraq – in fact, Iraq was one of the first things (if not *the* first – I can’t remember) that he mentioned in his victory speech last night. I anticipate that if McCain can keep America’s eyes focused on where it needs to be, which is our national security, and Iraq keeps improving, BO and Hillary either one will have a hard time convincing the American people that they are the candidate (respectively) who has the best CIC credentials to lead in the GWOT. Hillary has essentially called General Petraeus a liar (remember the “willing suspension of disbelief” comments?), which I’m betting McCain will bring up should she become the nominee, and McCain was an early supporter of th surge when not many others were, and BO voted against the surge and in fact proposed his own plan which would have had combat units from Iraq back home by the end of this month, effectively meaning that the gains we’ve seen in the last year would not have happened. McCain needs to impress among the American people the stark differences between him and whoever the Dem nominee eventually is.

I heard Hillary on Fox News this morning and, including her speech last night, she has started to say things along the line of “Americans want to elect a Commander in Chief who …” etc rather than saying “America wants to elect a president.” It could very well be that Hillary’s people are telling her to expect McCain to shift the debate to national security, and she’s already gearing up for it by framing the debate in terms of who is going to be the next “CIC” which reminds people they are electing more than just a president.

Which may actually work in McCain’s favor.

Related reading on Iraq:

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