Does National Security Give Hillary the Edge?

This morning, Clinton strategist Mark Penn claimed that the “3 a.m.” commercial that Hillary started running has shifted the momentum of the Democratic primary race in her favor:

Penn said the ad, which began airing Friday, effectively framed the question of “who’s ready and prepared to be commander-in-chief.” Penn added: “Just by merely asking the question and nothing more, millions of people understood what is the answer to that question.” He called it a “tipping point” in the race that has signaled a “change in momentum.”

Penn added that if Obama can’t stand up to Hillary Clinton on the issue, how will he fare against John McCain?

Penn also suggested that Obama’s alleged inability to stand up to Clinton on the national security question bodes poorly for his (and Democrats’) chances of winning that argument against Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the fall. “If Senator Obama can’t be seen to be commander-in-chief against Senator Clinton, how can he possibly expect to be seen as someone who can win the commander-in-chief question against Senator McCain?” Penn asked.

Note the implicit admission that McCain’s national security credentials dwarf Hillary’s.
Consistent with this message, the Clinton campaign has started running a new ad in Texas on the theme of national security:

What is striking to me about the ad is its last sentence, which says that Clinton will defend our national security by “bringing our troops home from Iraq, pursuing al Qaeda in Afghanistan.” Doesn’t this formula starkly reveal the incoherence of Clinton’s (and the Democrats’) position? If we are willing to pursue al Qaeda in Afghanistan, why shouldn’t we pursue them in Iraq? al Qaeda itself has said that Iraq is the central battlefield in its war against us. If al Qaeda is worth “pursuing,” why Afghanistan but not Iraq? Why couldn’t Hillary equally well have said she would “bring the troops home from Afghanistan while pursuing al Qaeda in Iraq?” The need to desert Iraq has become an article of faith, and little more, for the Democrats.
Byron York, meanwhile, notes that while national security may be a key theme of Clinton’s advertising campaign, neither Democratic voters nor Hillary herself seem to care much about the issue. We’ll find out, perhaps, tomorrow.
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