The Na­tional Se­cu­rity Fac­tor

Democrats have ‘cred­i­bil­ity gap,’ polls show

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - BY DON­ALD LAM­BRO

Vot­ers har­bor deep doubts about the abil­ity of Barack Obama and the Democrats to keep the U.S. safe from ter­ror­ism and han­dle other na­tional se­cu­rity crises, ac­cord­ing to a new Demo­cratic study. As the gen­eral elec­tion gets fully un­der way and most polls show the pres­i­den­tial race re­mains close, an anal­y­sis by a Demo­cratic poll­ster and party ad­vo­cacy group re­leased ear­lier this month found the party’s “na­tional se­cu­rity cred­i­bil­ity gap is re­turn­ing.”

“Old doubts about Democrats on se­cu­rity, af­ter di­min­ish­ing dur­ing 2006-2007, have be­gun to reemerge,” said a mem­o­ran­dum based on find­ings by Demo­cratic poll­ster and strate­gist Stan Green­berg for Third Way, an cen­tristlean­ing Demo­cratic is­sue ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“Some of this re-emerg­ing gap on na­tional se­cu­rity is about the Demo­cratic stan­dard-bearer, Sen. Barack Obama. Vot­ers know Sen. John McCain is a mil­i­tary man, but are still learn­ing about how Obama’s back­ground has pre­pared him to be Com­man­der-inChief,” the memo said.

But the memo also added that “Democrats down the bal­lot would be se­ri­ously mis­taken to be­lieve” that he was solely to blame. The na­tional se­cu­rity gap ex­tended to the party at large, the memo said.

A more re­cent NBC/Wall Street Jour­nal poll found even deeper doubts ex­ist about the Democrats on na­tional se­cu­rity grounds this year. Their poll showed the Democrats trailed Repub­li­cans by a whop­ping 28 points on pro­tect­ing Amer­ica from ter­ror­ism; 10 points on deal­ing with the war in Iraq; and a stag­ger­ing 25 point gap by the Obama-Bi­den ticket on the han­dling an “in­ter­na­tional cri­sis” with Iran or Rus­sia fol­low­ing its bru­tal in­va­sion of Ge­or­gia.

The Demo­cratic study, based on polls and fo­cus groups in key bat­tle­ground states, found “con­cerns that Democrats fol­low the polls rather than prin­ci­ple; that De­moc- rats are in­de­ci­sive and are afraid to use force; and that Democrats don’t sup­port the mil­i­tary.”

“Repub­li­cans con­tinue to win on many se­cu­rity is­sues,” the memo said.

“In­deed, in a year that could not be more fa­vor­able to Democrats, the pub­lic still de­ci­sively fa­vors Repub­li­cans to keep the coun­try safe,” warns the Green­berg/Third Way anal­y­sis.

A siz­able “trust gap” emerges when vot­ers are asked which party would bet­ter pro­tect the coun­try, the memo says. On which party will bet­ter han­dle na­tional se­cu­rity is­sues, Repub­li­cans lead by 14 points, 49 per­cent to 35 per­cent. On who would bet­ter “com­bat ter­ror­ism,” Repub­li­cans lead by 15 points, 48 per­cent to 33 per­cent, the study notes.

A ma­jor­ity of vot­ers still view the Iraq war as a mis­take, and “partly as a re­sult, Pres­i­dent Bush is strik­ingly un­pop­u­lar. Yet per­haps the most sober­ing find­ing is that th­ese doubts about Bush and the Repub­li­cans have not fully al­tered the land­scape on na­tional se­cu­rity that has per­sisted for over three decades,” the anal­y­sis said.

“Democrats have failed to trans­late voter un­ease about Bush into a last­ing in­dict­ment of Repub­li­can lead­er­ship on na­tional se­cu­rity or to re­build their own rep­u­ta­tion on se­cu­rity in this postCold War era,” it said.

The memo’s find­ings were also drawn from lengthy in­ter­views with six fo­cus groups con­ducted with in­de­pen­dents and mod­er­ateto-con­ser­va­tive Democrats in Den­ver, Vir­ginia Beach, Va. and Colum­bus, Ohio.

“Our re­search finds three strik­ing and prom­i­nent driv­ers be­hind the cur­rent se­cu­rity cred­i­bil­ity gap — each a per­cep­tion about Democrats that leads to pub­lic doubt,” the memo said. Among th­ese doubts:

“Vot­ers see Democrats as in­de­ci­sive in the face of threats and afraid to use force to pro­tect the na­tion;

“They see Democrats as in­suf­fi­ciently sup­port­ive of the mil­i­tary; and

“They see Democrats fol­low­ing pub­lic opin­ion, rather than ad­her­ing to a con­sis­tent, prin­ci­pled view of the coun­try’s best in­ter­ests.”

In an in­ter­view with The Wash­ing­ton Times, Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion’s na­tional se­cu­rity an­a­lyst Michael O’Han­lon main­tained that “on one level the Democrats don’t have to win a gold medal” on each of th­ese is­sues.

“They do need to be seen as com­pe­tent and cred­i­ble, and even more im­por­tant, what the coun­try needs is less par­ti­san­ship on na­tional se­cu­rity, pe­riod.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

UPI PHOTO/JEN­NIFER VIL­LALOVOS/U.S. NAVY

First re­spon­ders stand on the roof of the Pen­tagon above an Amer­i­can flag dur­ing the ded­i­ca­tion cer­e­mony for the Pen­tagon Memo­rial on the sev­enth an­niver­sary of the Septem­ber 11, 2001 ter­ror­ist at­tacks on the Pen­tagon and the World Trade Cen­ter in New York City, at the Pen­tagon in Arlington, Va. on Sept. 11, 2008.

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