The Spectacle Blog

Iraq and the General Election

By on 4.29.08 | 10:17AM

When I was in Pennsylvania a few weeks ago covering the primary there, I spoke to a man who could be described as a classic swing voter. While he was leaning toward Hillary Clinton in the primary, he said he'd reevaluate his choices in a general election. When I asked him what the most important issues were to him, he mentioned bringing troops home from Iraq, which you'd think would put him firmly in the Democratic camp. But he said he'd be perfectly willing to vote for John McCain in November. He described how, no matter what the candidates say, they aren't going to be able to just pull out right away, it may take a long time. And he noted that McCain was quoted out of context with his "100 years" comment, and said perhaps McCain's right that we'll have troops there for decades like in Korea.

A lot of pundits look at the polls showing a significant majority of Americans think the war was a mistake and want to bring the troops home, and assume that McCain's strong support for the Iraq War will be a drag on his candidacy. Obviously this is just one voter, but what struck me at the time, was that things are a lot more complicated than that. In any poll on Iraq, this man would have been recorded as supporting pulling out of Iraq and thus seen as more sympathetic to Democrats, yet at the same time, he appreciates the complexity of the situation and is perfectly open to voting for McCain. I wondered, how many others like him are out there?

Rasmussen is out with a report showing McCain outperforming the generic Republican label on and beating Obama and Clinton on a number of issues.

I found this particularly interesting:

Tracking polls have shown that roughly 6-out-of-ten Americans want troops home from Iraq within a year. However, only about one-in-four want the troops brought home immediately. The gap between those numbers is filled by Americans who both parties have a chance to persuade during Election 2008. Overall, when it comes to Iraq, Democrats are currently trusted more by 45% of voters and the GOP is trusted more by 43%. However, when it comes to the War in Iraq, McCain is trusted by more than either Democrat. Fifty percent (50%) trust McCain over Clinton while 40% hold the opposite view. Forty-eight percent (48%) trust McCain over Obama while 39% prefer Obama.
If the electorate is focused on pulling troops out, McCain is in a tough spot. But if voters believe that the reality is a lot more complicated, and the issue becomes a matter of who they think would do a better job handling the sitiation, I think McCain has more than a fighting chance to make this into a winning issue.

Via Dave Freddoso.

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