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The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Politcal Animal recently posted:

Now, I happen to agree with Tomasky that Republicans generally go for the jugular more effectively than Democrats, but it's a big mistake for us liberals to kid ourselves into thinking that Republicans win elections solely because they fool people into voting for them. It's not just that this is a debilitating mental attitude — although it is — but it's also not true. Our main problem isn't that this year's campaign has ignored the issues, our main problem is that the #1 issue in this campaign is national defense, and on that issue — like it or not — the majority of Americans favor the Republican position.

There are two basic problems with this. For starters, just what is the 'Republican position' on national defense that voters prefer to the Democratic one? Both parties want to build up the military and fight a war against terrorists. Such distinction as there is comes from Iraq, although even that is blurred: Bush hasn't offered much of a plan beyond 'stay the course' and Kerry hasn't offered much of anything. His plan to bring in other countries to share the burden was workable at one point; now the ugly reality is that there probably is no good option.

The main difference, although Kerry has allowed Bush to obscure it, is that Bush still says, and may actually believe, that starting the Iraq war was a good idea. Why is there still significant support for the war? A recent report (pdf) on public opinion and Iraq makes it pretty clear:

Such beliefs are highly correlated with support for the decision to go to war with Iraq. Among those who believed that Iraq had WMD 81% thought going to war was the right decision, and among those who thought it had a major WMD program 49% believed it was the right decision. Among those who thought that Iraq only had some WMD-related activities only 21% thought war was the right decision, and for those who thought there was no such activity just 8% thought it was the right decision.

Likewise, among those who thought Iraq was directly involved in the 9/11 attacks, 73% thought going to war was the right decision, and among those who thought Iraq was giving al Qaeda substantial support 69% thought this was the right decision. But among those who thought there were only a few contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda, 21% thought war was the right decision; and among those who thought there was no relationship at all, only 16% saw war as the right decision.

In other words, making the rather plausible assumption that support for Bush's war correlates to support for Bush's candidacy, we have about as clear a demonstration as you could ask for: Republicans do in fact "fool people into voting for them". Those who believe inaccurately that there were Iraqi WMDs and an Iraqi connection to 9/11 support the war. Those who know these claims are false oppose it.