Karl Rove has news for the Democrats — the Iraq political narrative has changed dramatically since 2006. The positions taken by both Democratic frontrunners only have the support of 18% of the American people, and two-thirds want the US to act responsibly for Iraq rather than abandon Iraqis to their fate. Rove sees disaster for either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama if they continue to play the withdrawal card in the general election:

One out of five is not a majority. Democrats should keep that simple fact of political life in mind as they pursue the White House.

For a party whose presidential candidates pledge they’ll remove U.S. troops from Iraq immediately upon taking office — without regard to conditions on the ground or the consequences to America’s security — a late February Gallup Poll was bad news. The Obama/Clinton vow to pull out of Iraq immediately appears to be the position of less than one-fifth of the voters.

Only 18% of those surveyed by Gallup agreed U.S. troops should be withdrawn “on a timetable as soon as possible.” And only 20% felt the surge was making things worse in Iraq. Twice as many respondents felt the surge was making conditions better.

It gets worse for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Nearly two out of every three Americans surveyed (65%) believe “the United States has an obligation to establish a reasonable level of stability and security in Iraq before withdrawing all of its troops.” The reason is self-interest. Almost the same number of Americans (63%) believe al Qaeda “would be more likely to use Iraq as a base for its terrorist operations” if the U.S. withdraws.

Where have we heard that recently? Oh, yes, from Osama bin Laden, who called Iraq the “perfect base” of operations to liberate Palestine. It appears that American voters have kept up with the progress of the war better than the two Democratic candidates.

It isn’t just Hillary and Obama, either. Harry Reid is still valiantly holding out hope for defeat in Iraq; he keeps claiming that the surge has failed, as does Nancy Pelosi as recently as last month, and Senator Carl Levin as well. However, Americans have begun to glean the limited reporting of the change in Iraq. For instance, Ramadi had at one time been the most violent city on Earth, with 30-35 attacks at day in early 2007. Now the city in Anbar has less than one attack a week, and has five times as many native police officers from a year ago. The US has completed over 1600 reconstruction projects in Ramadi alone.

These results have been replicated throughout Iraq, especially over the last six months.  Democrats refuse to acknowledge them, though, and Hillary Clinton went so far as to call General David Petraeus a liar during his Congressional testimony that reported the progress.  If they acknowledge the progress — which now includes the de-Baathification reform and provincial elections they demanded — then they have to admit that they declared defeat much too early.  The Democrats would have to admit that the Bush administration had it right when they changed to a counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq.  So far, they cannot bring themselves to admit reality, and so they continue to cling to their fantasy of American defeat.

The Democrats have tied their fortunes to failure in the 2008 elections. Unfortunately for them, Americans don’t like to fail, and they don’t like to abandon people to terrorists and genocide. We did that in South Vietnam in 1975, and millions of people died in the aftermath. If Democrats think that defeatism, retreat, and surrender work for them, Rove’s analysis of polling — his forté — should give them pause.