Foreign Policy Poised to Muddy 2006 Elections

Rising casualties in Iraq plus news that North Korea detonated a nuclear weapon are fueling expectations by some analysts that U.S. voters will flock to the polls on Election Day. Not so, according to one respected pollster, who claims the renewed focus on foreign policy threatens to drown out economic concerns and could be a deciding factor in the upcoming midterm elections.

“For nearly 50 years, poll after poll has shown that the Democrats have very limited credibility with the American public on foreign policy issues – particularly among the swing voters who have a disproportionate say in the outcome of U.S. elections,” said Democratic pollster Vic Fingerhut in a Washington Post editorial. “It may seem unjust that the party of victory in World War II, of the Marshall Plan and of NATO does not enjoy much credibility on foreign policy. But that’s the way it is – and has been for quite some time.”

Fingerhut cites historical examples of the phenomena and notes the rebound in public approval numbers following recent speeches by President Bush on the War on Terror. He also points to equally broad and steady support among voters for Democratic candidates on economic matters, based on a recent poll he did for the Machinists Union.

“The same swing voters who indicate such overwhelming faith in Republican on terrorism, Iraq and foreign policy simultaneously express strong Democratic preferences when it comes to basic economic and pocketbook issues,” said Fingerhut, who expects the President to use a series of speeches, announcements and visits by foreign dignitaries to keep voters’ attention on issues that benefit GOP candidates.