Poll: Americans Split On Iraq War
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A new Washington Post/ABC poll indicates that the American people may be willing to stick it out in Iraq. The poll found that Americans are essentially evenly split over who which candidate they trust to best handle the war — with 45 percent favoring Sen. Barack Obama, while 47 percent favor Sen. John McCain, with a margin of error of three percentage points. Both presidential contenders have hinged their candidacies on the war — Obama vows to bring it to an end, while McCain promises to stay until victory is achieved. The poll also found that just 22 percent of Americans strongly believe the war was worth fighting, while 50 percent strongly believe the war was not worth fighting.
It seems almost counter-intuitive that, with so many people viewing the war as a mistake, that McCain still enjoys such high marks on the issue. However, many people — including McCain — credit the so-called "surge" of troops for the recent decline of violence in Iraq. At a town hall meeting here today, McCain sought to frame the differences between the two candidates in terms of right and wrong. From his prepared remarks:
Over the last year, Sen. Obama and I were part of a great debate about the war in Iraq. Both of us agreed the Bush administration had pursued a failed strategy there and that we had to change course. Where Sen. Obama and I disagreed, fundamentally, was what course we should take. I called for a comprehensive new strategy — a surge of troops and counterinsurgency to win the war. Sen. Obama disagreed. He opposed the surge, predicted it would increase sectarian violence, and called for our troops to retreat as quickly as possible.
Today, we know Sen. Obama was wrong. The surge has succeeded. And because of its success, the next president will inherit a situation in Iraq in which America’s enemies are on the run, and our soldiers are beginning to come home. Sen. Obama is departing soon on a trip abroad that will include a fact-finding mission to Iraq and Afghanistan. And I note that he is speaking today about his plans for Iraq and Afghanistan before he has even left, before he has talked to Gen. Petraeus, before he has seen the progress in Iraq, and before he has set foot in Afghanistan for the first time. In my experience, fact-finding missions usually work best the other way around: first you assess the facts on the ground, then you present a new strategy.
The results could indicate there is truth to what some pundits have long held: Americans are likely to support a war when their country is perceived to be winning, and oppose those the United States is perceived to be losing. Democratic strategists have sought to tie McCain to the failed Iraq policies of the Bush administration. If the violence in Iraq holds at levels the American people view as acceptable, we may well see whether it could be the possible that the war could turn into a net plus for McCain.