Obama striking out with vets

One theme of my live-blogging of the Democratic Convention was the bid for the votes of veterans. On all three nights, the Democrats used vets and/or their family members to vouch for President Obama’s efforts on behalf of veterans. As I noted at the time, the Dems seemed to view veterans as another “victim” group to take care of.

Fortunately, Team Obama’s pitch to veterans has so far fallen flat. As Politico puts it, “President Barack Obama is trying hard to win veterans, but it looks like they’d prefer a new commander in chief.”

Politico bases this conclusion on polling data. Nationwide, says Politico, Romney has a commanding 20-percentage-point lead over Obama. “It’s no contest,” says Maurice Tamman, a Reuters data news editor who has polled veterans.

In May, Obama was actually leading Romney among Afghanistan and Iraq veterans. But a Reuters/Ipsos poll from September finds Romney now up 48 percent to 34 percent with this sub-class.

Why is Obama striking out with vets? The Romney campaign cites three factors: (1) opposition to the looming potential defense cuts under the budget sequester, (2) problems with Obama’s foreign policy positions, and (3) the backdrop of the stagnant economy that’s left the post-Sept. 11 generation of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with a difficult time finding work when they return home

These sound like plausible explanations to me. Taken together, they suggest that veterans view themselves as Americans first, not as a discrete victim class, and thus aren’t highly susceptible to the “look what we’ll do for your group” pitch that dominates the Democrats’ playbook.

However, Romney should not take veterans for granted, as he appeared to do when he failed to mention our troops in Afghanistan during his speech accepting the Republican nomination. There are nearly 1 million vets in both Ohio and Virginia, and about 1.6 million in Florida. Romney should expect Obama to pitch them again during the upcoming debates. He should be ready to hammer Obama on defense cuts and foreign policy weakness, and to cure his oversight in not praising those who have put (and are putting) themselves on the line for America.

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