Public confidence in the Iraq war has risen to its highest level in almost two years. Fifty-three percent now believe that the US will ultimately achieve its goals in Iraq, fifteen points higher than just six months ago, according to Pew Research:
American public support for the military effort in Iraq has reached a high point unseen since the summer of 2006, a development that promises to reshape the political landscape.
According to late February polling conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 53 percent of Americans — a slim majority — now believe “the U.S. will ultimately succeed in achieving its goals” in Iraq. That figure is up from 42 percent in September 2007.
The percentage of those who believe the war in Iraq is going “very well” or “fairly well” is also up, from 30 percent in February 2007 to 48 percent today.
The situation in Iraq remains fluid, of course. A surge in violence or in troop deaths could lead to rapid fluctuations in public opinion. But as the war nears its fifth year, the steady upturn in the public mood stands to alter the dynamics of races up and down the ballot.
Congressional Democrats seem to have already figured this out. They recently approved the entire appropriation request for operations in Iraq without making hardly a peep about it. It’s no coincidence that it’s the first time in two years they haven’t tried to hold it hostage for a retreat.
The big question will be how this affects the presidential race. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have campaigned on their commitment to withdrawal, especially Obama, who has tried to position himself to Hillary’s left. That made sense in the beginning of the primary campaign, when the surge had yet to begin and the violence appeared to overwhelm the American mission in Iraq. Now, however, it looks more like a senseless surrender with success in reach.
It’s not just Republicans, either. Half of all independents now believe that the US needs to remain in place until the gains in Iraq have been secured. The one presidential candidate arguing that policy also happens to be the Senator who spent the last three years arguing for a better counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq. John McCain already had significant appeal for centrists and independents, and this makes his case even stronger.