Why The Change In The Campaign 2012 Polls? The World Is Still A Dangerous Place (Forbes.com) October 22, 2012Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds.
Tags: Presidential Elections
While the presidential campaign is still primarily about the economy, voters have also been reminded that the world is still a dangerous place and are considering whom they trust as commander in chief. Both world events and Mitt Romney’s debate performances have contributed to his closing the gap with President Obama on this question, with a recent Pew Center Research poll showing Romney has reduced a 15-point deficit in September to a 4-point gap in October, with the foreign policy debate still on tap.
Unlike the economy, where a candidate’s experience and platform are highly relevant, the Commander in Chief issue is largely one of impression, which is why Romney’s confident debate performances have helped him. A close reading of the candidates’ positions does not reveal a huge difference—both would continue the Iraq withdrawal and Afghanistan drawdown of troops, both would negotiate with Iran and keep force on the back burner, for example. But when Romney more than holds his own with the President of the United States, not to mention the moderator, on a national debate stage, people can see him more readily as commander in chief.
World events have also cooked up in such a way as to cause voters to feel that the real test on foreign policy is more commander in chief than chief peacemaker. The polls suggest that independents, in particular, wonder why more was not done to secure our embassy in Benghazi. The Pew Center poll found that significantly more people (56%) now believe being firm with Iran is more important than avoiding war (35%), and nearly everyone agrees this issue needs to be resolved in the next few months. The Arab Spring increasingly appears to be about the challenge of Islamic fundamentalism rather than the opportunity of rising democracy, with the president more closely identified with flexible approaches toward the Arab world and less friendly toward Israel. Putin is back in power and Obama’s strategy of pushing the reset button in Russia doesn’t seem to have changed anything.
So people look at Romney—who only a few weeks ago was on the cover of Newsweek as a “wimp”—and see a guy who is tough on Jim Lehrer, Candy Crowley and President Obama and wonder if he wouldn’t be a better match-up with the leaders of Iran, Russia and, as of the last debate where he mentioned toughening up on trade, also China. And they question whether, as Obama has proposed, this is really the time to be making major cuts in defense spending. The President is playing his national security trump card, the killing of Osama Bin Laden, as often as possible, but as George H.W. Bush learned when his Gulf War popularity numbers had disappeared by election time, people have short memories about foreign policy successes.
What a difference four years makes. The big foreign policy concern in 2008 was America’s unpopularity in the world and whether a president could both keep America strong and also restore closer relationships abroad. But with danger and threats in so many corners of the world, and the recent deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, this time the peace platform seems less important to voters than a strong commander in chief.
Please click on the link to view the op/ed on Forbes.com: http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2012/10/22/why-the-change-in-the-campaign-2012-polls-the-world-is-still-a-dangerous-place/