Sunday, January 05, 2020


A new CBS poll of Iowa and New Hampshire says there's a three-way tie for the lead in Iowa, with Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden battling it out in New Hampshire:

The poll was conducted before the attack on Iran's General Qasem Soleimani. I'm now seeing speculation that the tensions with Iran work in Joe Biden's favor -- he's the candidate with the most foreign policy experience, and he's seen, rightly or wrongly, as the candidate who'd be a steady hand in a crisis.

I think some Democratic voters will be more likely to gravitate to Biden for these reasons. But I think Sanders will also gain in the polls, because he's instantly identifiable as a war skeptic -- not just this potential war, but most of our recent wars.

A Politico story suggests that Pete Buttigieg could lose some support:
His military experience has been a long-running campaign theme — nearly all of Buttigieg’s TV ads flash a picture of him in fatigues — but the subject also throws one potential weakness into sharp relief: the brevity of his national security experience, and his generally short resume compared to others in the 2020 presidential field.

“He’s the candidate with the military background who served” abroad, said Kathy Sullivan, a member of the Democratic National Committee from New Hampshire, who likened it to a “double-edged sword” for Buttigieg. “But at the same time, he’s the youngest candidate in the field without a ton of other foreign policy experience,” and a conflict with Iran “could shake up how voters are viewing this primary.”

... Voters at Buttigieg’s events were openly mulling those qualifications. Jane Goodman, a 53-year-old undecided voter who saw Buttigieg speak in Claremont, N.H., said his inexperience on the international stage “gives me pause” when “there are so many scary things going on in the world.” But she noted that his military service “gives me some comfort, even if he hasn’t been to the big leagues in D.C.”

“If he didn’t have the military background, then he would be a really inexperienced candidate and it would be a big void, but because he has it, it answers a lot of those questions,” said Steve Barker, another voter deciding between Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar. “The last 24 hours has jolted us into thinking about it.”
Klobuchar seems to be experiencing a mini-surge -- she's at 7% in both polls above -- but I fear that sexism will prevail, and both Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren will lose support if tensions with Iran remain high. Sanders is the candidate most identified with the anti-war brand, and Biden is the candidate most identified with a mainstream approach to foreign policy. Warren and Klobuchar.

But the news cycle moves fast, and Iran seems likely to take its time responding to Soleimani's death.
As the Middle East braced for the answer, fearful of any misstep by either side, hints began to emerge that Tehran is in no hurry to inflict the “harsh revenge” promised by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Eulogies for Soleimani from Iranian leaders have emphasized “patience” as much as vengeance....

“The Islamic Republic of Iran refuses to take any emotional and hasty action,” Brig. Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi, a spokesman for the armed forces, told Iran’s Mehr news agency on Saturday.

“We will set up a plan, patiently, to respond to this terrorist act in a crushing and powerful manner,” he said. “We are the ones who set the time and place of our reciprocal response.”
Americans have short memories and news-cycle ADHD. We might not even be talking about Iran (even as Iran plans revenge) when the voting in Iowa and New Hampshire takes place in early February.

But if Iran actually is what we're talking about, I think the primaries could become a two-old-man race.

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