How Unpopular Is the Iraq War?

Leaders of the Democratic Party apparently think that attacking the Iraq war is the ticket to electoral success; over recent weeks, they have coordinated a series of attacks on the war, including the selective leak of misleading portions of the National Intelligence Estimate and Bob Woodward’s just-released rehash of anti-war arguments. But how unpopular, in fact, is the war?

Michael Barone takes a look at recent poll numbers from belwether Ohio, and concludes: not as unpopular as the Democrats seem to think. On the questions whether we were right to invade Iraq and how well the war is going, respondents broke essentially 50/50. On the question whether we will ultimately succeed in establishing a secure democracy in Iraq, a clear majority say we will. And on the question whether we should stay in Iraq until the country is stabilized or cut and run, 61% say the former, and only 38% want to cut and run. In view of he present positions of the parties, those numbers break for the Republicans, not the Democrats.

As only Barone can, he shifts effortlessly from an analysis of this week’s poll numbers to a delightful contemplation of the ways in which Bill Clinton and George W. Bush resemble Charles II and William III, respectively. Do yourself a favor and read it!

This–the Ohio poll, that is, not the 17th century history–ties in, I think, with the votes in the House and Senate on the Military Commissions Act. Today’s New York Times, optimistic as usual, headlines Democrats See Strength in Bucking Bush, in connection with yesterday’s Senate vote:

The Democratic vote in the Senate on Thursday against legislation governing the treatment of terrorism suspects showed that party leaders believe that President Bush’s power to wield national security as a political issue is seriously diminished.

Well, maybe. But the Times’ own acknowledgement of which Democrats parted company with their party to support the President belies the article’s headline and lead:

Yet the minority of Democrats who joined with Republicans in passing the bill again illustrated that the party is unable to speak with one voice on security issues. Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, a Democrat up for re-election who often breaks with his party, said he was willing to follow the lead of Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who lent the final legislation his strong endorsement. Mr. McCain is a potential Republican presidential candidate.

“I think people respect Senator McCain on these issues,” Mr. Nelson said, “and I think he probably represents the views of a lot of people in Nebraska.”

Four other Democrats facing voters this year — Bill Nelson of Florida, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Thomas R. Carper of Delaware and Robert Menendez of New Jersey — voted for the bill.

To be sure, other Democrats who are up for re-election, like Hillary Clinton, voted against the bill. But those are the Democrats who, with the possible exception of Maria Cantwell, aren’t facing tough races. And the Times didn’t mention the fact, which I pointed out last night, that the two Democratic House members who are seeking Senate seats in November both voted with the administration. So Democratic politicians themselves are perhaps not as confident as their leadership and the New York Times that challenging President Bush on security issues is the way to get elected.


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