Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Formerly Staunch GOP Iraq Supporters Defecting

This morning's New York Times reports that hitherto staunch Republican supporters of the war in Iraq are having second thoughts, with some now calling the war a "lost cause" (via Memeorandum):

Through four elections, Debbie Thompson has supported Representative Mark Steven Kirk, a Republican and staunch backer of the Bush administration’s policies in Iraq.

But Ms. Thompson, a mother of two from this affluent suburb of Chicago, says her views on the war have evolved, and she now wants Mr. Kirk to change, too.

“My patience for this war, it’s run out,” said Ms. Thompson, 53. “I think this is the most expensive, stupidest thing ever done. My frustration has reached a level that is so unsettling, something has to be done.”

Though voters here in the 10th Congressional District have elected a Republican to the House for as long as anyone can remember, there is a newfound hostility about the war that is being directed toward Mr. Kirk, who was narrowly re-elected to a fourth term last November.

Nor is Mr. Kirk alone in his struggle to appease increasingly restless constituents. He and 10 other Republicans in Congress recently delivered a warning to President Bush that conditions in Iraq needed to improve soon because public support of the war was crumbling.

While a majority of Republican voters continue to support Mr. Bush and the Iraq war, including the recent increase in American troops deployed, there are concerns that the war is undermining the party’s political position. A majority of Republicans who were interviewed for a New York Times/CBS News poll this month said that things were going badly in Iraq and that Congress should allow financing only on the condition that the Iraqi government met benchmarks for progress.

In a poll in March, a majority of Republicans said that a candidate who backed Mr. Bush’s war policies would be at a decided disadvantage in 2008. They also suggested that they were open to supporting a candidate who broke with the president on the war.
Read the whole thing. Note that this article is to be treated with some skepticism. As I noted in my earlier post on President Bush's endorsement of some of the Baker Commission's Iraq recommendations, polls continue to find majority opinion supportive of the war as long as progress is being made, particularly on the problem of holding the Baghdad government responsible for reaching political accomodation among sectarian parties.

This point is confirmed by checking over at Polling Report,
where some poll findings indicate continued support for the war, depending on question wording. For example, here's one of the questions from the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll of May 4-6, 2007:

"Some proposals would provide additional funds for troops in Iraq and set benchmarks that the Iraqi government must meet to show that progress is being made in Iraq, but would not set a date for troop withdrawal. Would you favor or oppose this bill?"

Favor: 61 percent.
Oppose: 36 percent.
Unsure: 3 percent.

The CNN finding on public support for continued war funding is at a level similar to that of the New York Times poll cited above.

To be clear, I don't want to overstate my case on the fine points of question wording: Americans overall are certainly tiring of the war. Yet,
as I have noted before, the administration's troop surge strategy is not really predicated on a short timetable. Unfortunately, as things are moving now (towards a possible U.S. troop drawdown) the dwindling patience of the American people may not give that strategy enough time to work.

Update: I've taken a look at some additional polling data from the Polling Report Iraq link I cited above. In particular, scroll down to the Quinnipiac University Poll from April 25-May 1, 2007. That survey breaks down support for an Iraq withdrawal timetable by party, and finds that a full 72 percent of Republicans oppose Congress "setting a time-table for withdrawing all United States troops from Iraq?" Thus, to repeat, the New York Times piece is mostly anecdotal, and not to be trusted as an indicator of overall GOP voter sentiment on Iraq. There certainly are some Republican members of Congress feeling the heat from their constituents over Iraq, but those views are localized and not generalizable to the Republican Party's electorate as a whole.

Of course, that hasn't stopped some liberal bloggers from having their fun with the article. See the left-wing posts from Central Sanity, Brilliant at Breakfast, Daily Kos, Down With Tyranny, and Shakesville.

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