Withdrawal As Wedge
Among Democrats, comparable levels of support for bringing the troops home are found among liberal Democrats (62%) and among those who consider themselves moderate or conservative (66%). And among both groups, bringing the troops home is more likely to mean a gradual withdrawal (45% among moderate and conservative Democrats, 42% among liberal Democrats) within the next 1-2 years rather than an immediate pullout.
So both the left and the right of the Democrats support bringing the troops home within the next year or two. The party is unified. What about Republicans:
By contrast, there is a sizable gap on this question between conservative Republicans and their moderate to liberal colleagues. Eight-in-ten conservative Republicans favor keeping troops in Iraq; among moderate and liberal Republicans, 59% agree.
So, as expected, the wingnuts want to stay in Iraq come hell or high water. But 41% of moderate Republicans are open to withdrawal. How to withdraw is where the wedge comes:
Nearly two-thirds of conservative Republicans (63%) say the troops should stay in Iraq until things stabilize and that there should be no timetable for withdrawal. But just 38% of moderate and liberal Republicans agree with this position, which best approximates the position of the Bush administration.
So when it comes to withdraw, only 38% agree with the president's stay the course, stand up/stand down time table. Or to put it another way, 62% favor some sort of withdraw. The same as moderate and liberal Democrats.
This election is going to be about contrast. If Democratic candidates - especially in GOP leaning districts like those here in Illinois - want to contrast themselves with their Republican opponents, the way to do that is to talk about withdraw from Iraq and holding Bush accountable for his mistakes in Iraq. Conservative Republicans will hate this. But they'll never vote for a Democrat anyway, so who cares. Moderate Republicans, on the other hand, will listen. These are the only Republicans Democrats have a chance of swinging, and they agree with us.
Taking an aggressive position on Iraq troop withdrawal will excite the Democratic base. It will push Iraq to the front of the debate. It will make GOP opponents defend their support for an unpopular president and his unpopular war. Taking a stand on accountability and withdraw from Iraq will resonate with moderate Republicans and Independents and Democrats.
Failure to take an aggressive stand and try to play GOP-lite will lead to disaster. As Jonathan points out:
If Democratic candidates try to blur the line between their position on Iraq and that of their Republican opponent, they do so at their own peril. Americans are ready to see change in the policy towards Iraq -- they're not only ready, they're clamoring for it -- and if the Democratic Party is unable to offer that change, it runs the risk of blowing it's best opportunity for Congressional pick-ups in more than a decade.
Stand up/stand down, faulty intelligence, and the rest of the Bush BS needs to go by the way side. It's time to offer a clear contrasting message on Iraq that involves holding the Bush administration accountable and withdrawing troops.