Ross is right that this proposed anti-Obama strategy is a loser, but there’s a larger problem with the proposal, and this is the habit of a remarkable number of observers on the right to assume that Iraq will either be irrelevant, a “wash” or could actually work to the GOP’s benefit. The lack of imagination on domestic policy is striking, yes, but it is not quite as far out there as the idea that drawing attention to Obama’s support for withdrawal will hurt him with an electorate that wants our soldiers out of Iraq. This seems to be based in the view that most Americans don’t want to withdraw from Iraq and, per McCain, don’t care whether we remain in Iraq indefinitely, which is as wrong as you can be. As I have noted before, the “as long as it takes” position garners 8% support (see page 31 of the poll). Republicans may not be able to run away from Iraq with any credibility at this point, especially with McCain as the nominee, but they could make some meager effort to demonstrate that they see the folly in remaining there in perpetuity. If the choice is Clinton and withdrawal within 18 months or so of inauguration or John “10,000 Years” McCain, huge numbers of Republicans and independents will not support the latter. Obama may simply be too weak of a general election candidate to defeat McCain, even when he has an absurd view of the conflict. If McCain adopts a potentially more realist-oriented position, endorses withdrawal in principle but rules out a rapid withdrawal he will probably do quite well. If Republicans want to win, they have to limit the advantage the Democrats really do have on the war. Continuing to pretend that an uncompromising position on the war is a political asset is a sure way to lose.
Unfortunately, the only way that the war is going to end quickly and without endless recriminations at home is if majorities in both parties accept withdrawal as a legitimate goal. The threat of another electoral repudiation may push Republicans in that direction. Certainly, they will have an incredibly difficult time if they don’t begin acknowledging that most of the public is solidly against them. They may be too locked in to their own justifications to adapt, in which case their defeat becomes that much more certain.