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Iraq and the Democratic Candidates, or Let’s Fact-Check Frank Rich

- January 9, 2008

In Sunday’s New York Times, Frank Rich said this:

bq. By the same margins as before (sometimes even slightly larger), a majority of Americans favor withdrawal no matter what happened during the “surge.” In another poll (Gallup), a majority still call the war a mistake, a finding that has varied little since February 2006.

bq. It’s safe to assume that these same voters did not forget that Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Edwards enabled the Iraq fiasco. Or that Mr. Obama publicly opposed it. When Mrs. Clinton attacked Mr. Obama for his supposedly “irresponsible and frankly naïve” foreign policy ideas — seeking talks with enemies like Iran — she didn’t diminish him so much as remind voters of her own irresponsibility and naïveté about Mr. Bush’s Iraq scam in 2002.

This is one of the myths of this campaign: Clinton’s position on Iraq hurts her among Democratic voters. (Edwards gets a pass, the conventional wisdom goes, because he has more convincingly repudiated his 2002 vote.)

And then you get this result from the New Hampshire primary exit poll:

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Those who want to withdraw troops as soon as possible (43% of the sample) are more likely to support Clinton (41% do so) than Obama (34%). The people who want to withdraw troops gradually (51%) are evenly split. And the 5% who want to keep troops there longer? They support Obama more than any other candidate.

In other words, it is not “safe to assume” that Democratic voters will punish Hillary Clinton for her early support of the Iraq War.