Voters trust McCain when it comes to Iraq

John McCain’s stance on the war is unambiguous: He voted for it, supports the current enhanced U.S. troop presence in Iraq and vigorously opposes any timetable to withdraw.

The public’s stance on the war is as equivocal as McCain’s is not: A strong majority of Americans oppose it and believe it was wrong in the first place, but more find McCain better suited to handle Iraq than his Democratic presidential rival, Barack Obama.

"He’s more experienced militarily," said Ann Burkes, a registered Democrat and retired third-grade teacher from Broken Arrow, Okla. "And I don’t know if I agree with stay the course (policy) but I think the good probably outweighs the bad with him, experience wise."

Burkes illustrates the conflicted voter — one who is as likely to be influenced by McCain’s policy positions as by his personal biography as a former Navy pilot who spent five years in a North Vietnam prison.

For McCain, there is a major complication. Not all those voters who perceive him as stronger on Iraq say they will vote for him for president.

Unlike the 2004 presidential contest, this is not shaping up as a national security election. Neither the war nor terrorism is foremost in the public’s mind. The economy and energy prices are the pre-eminent issues of the day. And on those, Obama has the edge.

Still, this hate-the-war, love-the-warrior strain runs through the American electorate. In a new Associated Press-Yahoo! News poll, more than one out of five of the respondents who say they oppose the war also say they support McCain for president. The sentiment does not discriminate by gender or by age. Most significantly, it splits independent voters in favor of McCain.

Respondents said McCain would do a better job in Iraq than Obama by a margin of 39 percent to 33 percent. Undergirding that response is a strong sentiment that McCain would be a better leader of the military than Obama. One out of three respondents said that description matched McCain "very well," whereas only one out of ten said the same of Obama, who did not serve in the armed forces.

The Iraq findings track McCain’s advantage on the issue of terrorism. Of those surveyed, more than twice as many believe McCain can better handle terrorism than Obama. As such, McCain is emerging clearly as a candidate of national security, a conventional role for a Republican.

Only 6 percent of those who say they will vote for Obama say McCain would do a better job on Iraq. But among "weak" Obama supporters, that figure rises to 15 percent. Moreover, among undecided voters, McCain is preferred 25 percent to 15 percent over Obama on Iraq.

Leeann Ormsbee, a registered Democrat from Waterford, Pa., believes the United States rushed to war, but now does not believe troops should simply withdraw. The 29-year-old self-employed house cleaner says she has never voted for a Republican. She might this time.

"I do believe that he will do better in Iraq," she said of McCain. "Because he’s served in the military and he has said we can’t just pull out…I think we’re just kind of stuck with it now and we have to finish."

Republican pollster Neil Newhouse calls these voters "nose holders."

"They don’t like the fact that were over there, they don’t think the decision was the right one, but they understand that if we simply withdraw our troops, it would leave things worse off," he said.

Aware that national security is one of his strongest features, Democrats and their allies have tried to portray McCain’s Iraq stance as a mere continuation of Bush’s policy. They have seized on his comments earlier this year when he speculated that U.S. troops could remain in Iraq for 100 years. Though he was talking about a presence of non-combat troops akin to South Korea, his remark has been used in television commercials against him.

Earlier this month, McCain kicked off his general election advertising campaign with an ad that featured his and his family’s military service and his years in captivity but cast him as a man with a distaste for war.

"Only a fool or a fraud talks tough or romantically about war," he says in the ad.

McCain supported the resolution in 2002 that allowed President Bush to use force in Iraq. He later criticized then secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for his management of the war and went on to become one of the Senate’s leading advocates of last year’s buildup of troops. He has said he could envision troops withdrawing around 2013 but has refused to fix a date.

"We were losing in Iraq; now we’re winning," he has said.

The troop expansion, which is about to end, has left Iraq safer and given Iraqi forces greater responsibility for security. But Pentagon and congressional reports issued this week also warned that the gains are delicate and could be reversed.

McCain’s Iraq advantage could evaporate if violence and chaos resurface and U.S. casualties mount. Conversely, even greater successes in the country could make withdrawing troops more palatable.

Obama has argued that the troop surge has not helped resolve Iraq’s political problems. He wants to remove all combat brigades from Iraq within 16 months of becoming president. But he has said that if al Qaeda builds bases in Iraq he would keep troops in the country or in the region to carry out "targeted strikes."

"As the American people get to know Obama and McCain better they will see that the difference is Obama’s desire to fundamentally change American policy in Iraq and John McCain wants to continue George Bush’s policy," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said.

Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg said the evidence of improvements this year presents a double edged sword for McCain and Obama.

"Obviously people don’t like the war in Iraq, they want it to be over and they don’t like all the money we’re spending there," she said. "On the other hand, people also don’t want to retreat or lose…In 2006, (the public’s view of the war) was much more clearly a net positive for Democrats. I think the landscape has changed."

At the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, which has also polled on Iraq and the presidential candidates, associate director Michael Dimock said the public has a perception that McCain "is not completely on board with Bush."

What’s more, he said, Obama faces lingering concerns about his experience, about not being tested and about not having foreign policy experience — themes that Hillary Rodham Clinton pushed during their prolonged primary contest.

The poll was conducted over the Internet by Knowledge Networks. It initially contacted people using traditional telephone polling methods, and followed with online interviews. People chosen for the study who had no Internet access were given it for free.

"What you see is that Americans themselves are conflicted about Iraq," he added. "They are very hesitant to say that we need to get out now. They understand the complexity of this situation."

(Associated Press Director of Surveys Trevor Tompson, and AP writers Christine Simmons and Natasha Metzler contributed to this article.)


  1. Ardie

    The press hardly reports about the war in Iraq. It is irrelevant, in other words, or so it seems. But if Obama, as President, decides gradually to withdraw forces from Iraq, do you really believe the press will be just as quiet as they are now? If would be a good thing. But I seriously have my doubts about the press being quiet. Most of the press are scoundrels. While the war continues–very little of it is reported. And if Obama tries to end it–it will make headlines almost everyday! I can only conclude the press wants the war to continue. Again, they are scoundrels. I am almost sure of it.

  2. ekaton

    If “The Press” wants the war to continue it is because it is owned by war profiteers, viz., GE owns NBC.

    — Kent Shaw

  3. Carl Nemo

    Why would anyone with their oars in the water trust McCain concerning Iraq? He surely wasn’t a Duke Cunningham when it came to being a true “ace” in the skies above North Vietnam. Btw Duke is doing some hard downtime in prison for conducting his Congressional business in less than a sterling manner, but I must say the guy was a superb pilot and is an “ace” in my book when it comes to air to air combat, unlike this puffed “dud” McCain…!

    McCain was shot down, incarcerated for 5.5. years and from my intelligence sources received preferential treatment at the hands of his captors. I won’t get into the details of the goodies that were proffered to our downed hero, but rest assured it kept him smiling ear to ear while others grimaced in pain for the duration.

    I laugh that he always dons his Navy cap to hide his aged, balding head, that has absolutely nothing between his ears, other than what’s in it for me; ie, terminal, avaricious corruption…!?

    I can assure the American people that we don’t need no “stinkin’ candidates with military experience in the Whitehouse and surely those with John McCain’s pedigree.

    Carl Nemo **==

  4. old_curmudgeon

    I won’t get into the details of the goodies that were proffered to our downed hero, but rest assured it kept him smiling ear to ear while others grimaced in pain for the duration.

    That might also explain why he threatened the Vietnamese government if they released the records from the archives which included his stay in the Hanoi Hilton, his excuses of “personal priviledge and privacy” notwithstanding.

    I am amazed at the number who blindly believe that a former military member who failed at his assigned task (not get shot down over enemy territory) automatically qualifies them to be Supreme Leader, or a “hero.”

    Read what Goldwater said of his replacement in the senate. Very perceptive for an old retired General.

    But, that’s just this old curmudgeon’s opinion…

    “Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.” ~ Mark Twain

  5. ridingchick

    I find it truly incredible that John McCain is the republican candidate for president.

    This old man has not a CLUE as to what’s going on in this country or the world for that matter. In August, he will be 72 years old.

    YES…Age has everything to do with it! He is not very intelligent. He has issues remembering from minute to the next. America would be crazy to trust this man. He is a carbon copy of the current occupant in the White House. Hopefully, some people can see where America is headed and make the right decision in November.

    I say to the American public, Don’t be fooled by this moron! He is out to destroy this country. How do you stay in Washington politics for 25 years and and NEVER pass a bill to protect the rights of it’s citizens?

    Ben Franklin said it best,”Those that would sacrifice Freedom for Security deserve neither.”


    Obama ’08

  6. Carl Nemo

    I must say I enjoy your concurring thoughts “ridingchick” and it tells me that you’ve got your oars in the water concerning this “judas goat” McCain…!

    Thanks for your supportive thoughts, not only on this article but others on CHB.

    I always enjoy the company of savvy women that know their mind and speakup…!

    Carl Nemo **==

  7. woody188

    Leave it to the AP to skew a poll to support their candidate of choice and then hold it up as some kind of proof. Classic Rothschild strategy.

  8. pollchecker

    Since the Iraq war is no longer the primary issue in this campaign, this stupid poll DOESN’T MATTER ONE IOTA!

    Iraq Reports Agree On One Issue McCain Ignores: Political Progress Is Lacking

    Maybe if people understand that the policies of BUSH/MCCAIN in Iraq are NOT WORKING!, these numbers will change. The only thing that will decrease the violence, ensure Al Qaeda’s defeat in Iraq and rebuild Iraq is to REMOVE THE US PRESENCE IN THEIR COUNTRY.

    BTW, we need to move out of Iraq and back into Afghanistan if we REALLY want to be safe from Al Qaeda.

    Oh, and this is what another poll says…

    Obama Leads McCain By 15 Points In Another Poll

    But then we get stuff like this…which is not even news…it’s just another opinion piece by someone who …

    …..It’s difficult to know whether his latest column is a part of his ongoing attempt to prove himself more ironically humorous than Stephen Colbert or if it’s just another entry in the “Most Out Of Touch Columnist in America” contest….

  9. Sandra Price

    We went into Kuwait to get Saddam out and leave the oil wells alone. Bush 41 made certain our troops were left in the Middle East. There was our great mistake! We had many CIA agents in the area and one Michael Sheuer finally wrote about this problem as he had been in the Middle East as an agent for America and saw the fury of the Muslims of having American troops living on their holy ground.

    What if the Taliban set up troops in Texas or North Korea sent troops to Alaska or any foreign army group set their roots on American soil? A new Administration wanted a strike at Saddam in Iraq and they just kept poking Islam in the eye until 9/11. If one reads Sheuer’s book called Imperial Hubris, it is as clear as a bell. Dozens of other books have been written on the multiple mistakes America made in dealing the Muslim Middle East but Bush wanted a war in Iraq and he got it.

    Did he know in advance that 9/11 would happen? Did he do nothing to use this action as he was driven to destroy “the axis of evil?” We will never know but we must never trust a President will full powers again without a Congress who is aware that anyone wanting full control over America is nothing but a dictator.

    What is tearing America apart? Is it bad leaders we elect? Is it we don’t care who we elect? Are we determined to rewrite the Constitution to include the agenda of Jesus Christ? Are we determined to use the government to feed, clothe, insure and educate all Americans? Have we finally hit bottom in our endeavors to think and act as individuals? From both sides of our political parties, we have given up working as individuals. Have we not had enough of this religious movement in the White House and we will end up like Rome with an American Pope to tell us what we must not do?

    When did we lose our American pride? When did we lose our ability to live with other cultures in peace? Could it have been when the Religious American leaders gave in to the “End of Times” plan and quit working for American Values? Are the rest of us going to turn away and let them destroy us?

    Will we find McCain in the White House because “no black man will ever be in the White House?”

  10. pollchecker

    Will we find McCain in the White House because “no black man will ever be in the White House?”

    No because GW Bush is the WORST POTUS EVER! And most people cannot, willnot and do not want 4 MORE YEARS OF BUSH/MCCAIN! That will trump everything.

    And if Obama is as smart as I think, then we will have an Obama/Richardson ticket that will be unstoppable.

    Hell, even my 84 year old conservative father from Mississippi will vote for that ticket!(very big grin)

  11. woody188

    Obama/Richardson is a racists worst nightmare. All they will see is a black man and a mexican taking their jobs and raping their women. This ticket is guaranteed to lose. I live in Ohio and have some experience in dealing with racism. We supposedly (I no longer believe we have a legal or fair election process) voted for Clinton and Junior twice!

  12. pollchecker

    Do you really think it matters to a rascist whether there is another minority on the ticket? Come on, now!

    A true rascist is not going to vote for the Dem ticket no matter who you make VP.

    And you will make up for any loss from rascists by the additional Hispanic votes you will gain.

    Do you really think a Dem can win in Ohio for POTUS? I thought Ohio and Florida were guaranteed rigged to win GOP.

    Perhaps a new strategy (afterall Obama is candidate of change) would be to go after new areas….hell, Obama has enough money to put all states in play.

  13. woody188

    It might not matter to a racist, but it might if that racist wants out of the fighting in Iraq. They might just swallow that pride to help their friends and family fighting over there for nothing.

    I may be mistaken, but I believe Ohio went Democrat for Bill Clinton both times. While Republicans were in charge of the state house it would not have been possible.

    Kenneth Blackwell, Secretary of State for Ohio and the Chairman of the Bush campaign in Ohio in 2004, made sure Bush won and was duly rewarded by Bush Co. for his help as was Katherine Harris in Florida in 2000.

    The coincidences in each case are too similar to be discounted. Kind of like the coincidences involving 9/11 and 7/7 London bombings where both police/military were running training exercises using the exact scenario as the attack that happened. Statistically it’s improbable for one, impossible for two.

    We have Democrats in the positions now. If they know how to manipulate the votes like the Republicans did, ie, not have enough voting machines placed, adjust the totals, intimidate voters via challenges, roll purges, etc, then Obama could certainly win, though not likely with a minority VP. As most dictators will tell you, you can only swing the vote some 10-15% or else the tampering will be discovered.

  14. pollchecker

    I was referring to the Ohio that went REpublican in 2004. If I recall correctly, there were a lot of questions about the vote in Ohio that year.

    You don’t think that Karl would cheat in 2 states in a row do you?


    The question will be where will they attempt to cheat in 2008? NY perhaps?

    Bill Richardson was the candidate that was most opposed to continuing Bush’s illegal actions in Iraq. So I would hope that anyone who wanted to come out of Iraq would put their rascist feelings aside and vote for the ONLY current candidate (aka Senator Obama)that will bring our troops home soon. Or just not vote at all…which is the most likely. As long as they don’t vote for McCain, it may not matter if they don’t vote for Obama. I still say a TRUE RASCIST is not going to vote Dem…no matter what.

  15. Pablo

    Like a bad relationship
    Bush, mccain and hillary’s Iraq war goes on and on and on. The american people continue supporting the transfer of our wealth to the MIC because they just can’t see that “losing” is inevitable. Fools. Broke fools! In-debt fools! So we go broker and broker and broker because people just don’t and won’t get it.

    Enlightened people’s votes don’t matter much in a nation full of confused people who just don’t have the mental skills to be making such important decisions. In the meantime, US soldiers and Iraqi citizenry will continue dying, and our multi-trillion dollar debt continues expanding. And for what??? For what?

    As clearly shown by the democratic primary, beating out the warmongers won’t be easy.

    What a way to start my day, reading this article reminding me of what surrounds me. Sigh.

  16. Flapsaddle

    It’s understandable. It is not rational, but it is understandable. It’s a tensor going through our political history: The public preferentially trusts those who have been in harm’s way when it comes to making military decisions.

    John McCain is a former warrior and POW; therefore, he knows about war and is more likely to make the right decision. Barak Obama has never worn a uniform, so he has not had a chance to “see the elephant”; therefore, his judgment in a military situation is suspect.

    It doesn’t matter that McCain’s service record WRT his conduct as a POW has raised some questions, or that he has supported and voted for the Iraq war; he’s been a warrior. It doesn’t matter that Obama has consistently opposed the war; he is a civilian who has not crossed the field of Mars.

    A military record is a plus on the campaign trail, no matter how open to question it may have been. It will tend to override real issues in a pinch.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  17. Pablo

    You’re right T.J.
    But that certainly doesn’t make the american people look any smarter!

  18. woody188

    “A military record is a plus on the campaign trail, no matter how open to question it may have been.”

    LOL, unless your name is John Kerry! Though he kind of ceeded that status when he threw or pretended to throw his medals back.

  19. AustinRanter

    McCain Doesn’t Have Credible Experience Regarding National Security.

    Recently Gen. Wes Clark pointed out:

    “I know he’s trying to get traction by seeking to play to what he thinks is his strong suit of national security,” Clark said of McCain while speaking from his office in Little Rock, Arkansas. “The truth is that, in national security terms, he’s largely untested and untried. He’s never been responsible for policy formulation. He’s never had leadership in a crisis, or in anything larger than his own element on an aircraft carrier or [in managing] his own congressional staff. It’s not clear that this is going to be the strong suit that he thinks it is.”

  20. tropicaltaco

    Where can I find McCain’s war record, especially his time in captivity. From what I’ve heard torture was rare and mostly they wanted them (pilots) to admit their war crimes of bombing innocent villages. Ho Chi Minh once said, ” The American people are not our enemy, their government is”. Or something to that effect’

    If war is necessary for security and expansion is fundamental to civilization then I would say that one’s military record would be a plus on the campaign trail. In this day and age that is not the case because we know from recent experience two things, why separation of church and state is necessary and that the military industrial complex has grown dangerously out of proportion. What we do not need is a president who’s expertise is war and the military.
    How much longer are we going to buy into this terrorist propaganda crap and admit we have lost control of our government and finally do something about it.

    American people are the best entertained and least informed people on the face of the earth’
    (Robert F. Kennedy)

    “When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.” (Jimmy Hendrix)

    We need to drag those bastards into court and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.
    (U.S. Citizens with balls)

  21. Flapsaddle

    Very few things that Americans do in politics are intended to make them look smarter; most of it seems to be aimed at emphasizing how reliable a member of the lowing herd we really are.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  22. Flapsaddle

    You cannot appear to be an apostate – even if you are faking it.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  23. JudyB

    I cannot figure out why anyone would feel someone who was a POW, is automatically assumed qualified to serve as POTUS. I think being a POW would be a horrible fate to endure(a very understated fact) but NOT one that would in anyway make any individual more qualified for the job of POTUS.
    When we vote for a President, shouldn’t we be thinking in terms of which candidate has the platform we most agree with, but more important, believe our candidate of choice has the wisdom to select the best person in any given field to serve in his/her cabinet. No matter who’s elected, you better hope that the congress serving at the time is on his/her side as well.

  24. Cailleach


    McCain has foreign policy experience? He doesn’t know the difference between Shias and Sunnis! He didn’t even know that there are more than one kind of Muslims! What about Wahabbis and Kurds, to say nothing of Sufis? Why hasn’t he read up on Islam, whether he thinks Muslims are friends or enemies? They are, after all, one of the largest religious groups in the world. He’s dumb as a stump and senile to boot. In the brains department, he’s worse than Bush.

    The last thing this country needs is another elitist moron for president.

  25. ekaton

    “What about Wahabbis and Kurds, to say nothing of Sufis?”

    Shiite, Sunni, Wahabi and Sufi are different branches, or sects of Islam. Kurds are an ethnic group that happens to believe generally in Islam.

    — Kent Shaw