What a difference a day makes. Or rather, several days and quite a few hours of congressional testimony and public statements regarding the status of the troop “surge” in Iraq from General David Petraeus. Not only are the leading Democrats running for President not calling for immediate withdrawal, but they won’t even say that if they were President the troops would be out of Iraq by the end of their four year term.
In a debate this week, Hillary Clinton said, “It is very difficult to know what we're going to be inheriting." John Edwards said “I cannot make that commitment.”
It is pretty evident now why MoveOn.org and many Democrats were so determined to undermine the testimony of General David Petraeus, leader of U.S. forces in Iraq, with attack ads and questions about the veracity and independence of his report. His testimony made a difference. Even most Americans who don’t like the war, don’t want to lose it. News of progress is making a difference in the debate over the war in Iraq, and no where is the result more significant than in the leadership of the Democratic party.
Although many of the Democrat politicians understand that some things have changed since the Petraeus report, many of the liberal anti-war activists don’t. A liberal blogger commenting on Elizabeth Dole’s re-election chances in North Carolina recently wrote, “UP: Her top assets are the sheer awesomeness of incumbency and that George W. Bush is not on the ballot. DOWN: GWB isn’t on the ballot, but his war is.” Not only are the Democrats’ chances for the presidency heavily dependent on bad news coming from Iraq and an unsuccessful war to run against, but so are Democrats’ prospect for holding the Senate. Bottom line – bad news from Iraq has been good news for many Democrats running for office.
Beyond the political considerations relating to voters, though, a shift in the rhetoric and actions of leading Democrats regarding Iraq has an effect on those base supporters and groups so important to organizing and raising money. I can’t count how many times I have heard since the 2006 election that the electoral success of the Democrats was a statement on the Iraq war and proved that voters wanted us out of there now. Democrats already lost Cindy Sheehan (which I would count ultimately as a win for them) and could be in danger of losing others in the anti-war movement as candidates are backing away from their previous calls for withdrawal.
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