Republicans have tried to attack the President's party on the issue of terrorism, but they may just end up helping himby William McCants / November 4, 2014 / Leave a comment
Islamic State’s rampage across large swathes of Iraq this summer put the Obama administration on the defensive, making the militants’ advance an inviting target for Republican candidates campaigning for the US mid-term elections. Obama and the Democrats poll well on counterterrorism policy so the Republicans sensed an opportunity to dim one of their few campaign bright spots. Yet the Republican criticism of the President for not responding sooner to the IS advance may ultimately bolster the President’s war on the militants after the mid-terms.
Despite Republican campaigning on Obama’s perceived failings on IS, the issue is not necessarily an effective line of attack against the Democrats. Although Americans rank the threat of terrorism lower than other issues, they overwhelmingly support the decision to carry out airstrikes against the jihadists. More than 70 per cent of the American public voiced their support in several respected polls. Voters appear mildly concerned about terrorism but happy with what the President is doing to address it.
Terrorism also does not rank high on the list of things Americans worry about—according to a Gallup poll in September, only four per cent rank terrorism as the most important problem facing the United States. The percentage increased only a point after the US launched its air campaign against IS inside Syria last month. A CBS poll records more worry about terrorism—14 to 19 per cent—and a Politico poll has 22 per cent for terrorism, foreign affairs, and national security as the issues most concerning voters. But that still means three quarters of the country worry more about other things, especially the economy. And, at least according to the CBS poll, Republicans worry only slightly more than Democrats about terrorism. The result is surprising since Republicans usually prioritise national security issues—a measure of just how much more bread-and-butter issues matter in this election.
But comparatively low voter worry about terrorism has not deterred Republicans from attempting to spin events in Iraq to their advantage. New Hampshire Republican candidate Scott Brown implausibly claims “radical Islamic terrorists are threatening to cause the collapse of our country.” Republican Wendy Rogers, a former lieutenant…