Whatever the negative attacks and personal gaffes swirling around the 2006 mid-terms, evidence is mounting that elections -- more than any other issue -- will be a vote about Iraq. As a Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll released yesterday found:
Voters say that Iraq will be the most important issue when they go to the polls on Nov. 7. And 52% of voters said that they want Democrats to control Congress, while 37% chose Republicans. The 15-point margin matches the widest spread ever recorded on the question in a Journal/NBC poll, the newspaper said.
The WSJ/NBC poll also found that 54% of the electorate thinks the Iraq war "wasn't worth the human and financial costs," which is in line with the national poll conducted by the Institute last month. Far from being just a "blue state" phenomenon, our survey found 57% of those in Southern states in our poll said "the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq," 62% said they were "very sad" about the course of the Iraq mission, and fully 30% said they favored immediate withdrawal.
The Iraq war isn't an abstract issue in the South. Southerners have close ties to the military, from enlisting a disproportionate share of troops to serving as headquarters for major U.S. military bases. A new state-by-state fact sheet by the Institute for Policy Studies looks at how Iraq has played out locally; as Eric Leaver of IPS recently noted:
[W]hen Tennessee's National Guard returned from Iraq earlier in the month, they left behind more than $250 million dollars of equipment. The governor predicts it will take 10 years to replace the equipment given all of the financial burdens the state has.
To get a better sense of how the war will impact elections, the PBS show NOW with David Brancaccio it going to Texas:
On November 3 at 8:30 pm (check your local listings), NOW goes to one of the most pro-war districts in the country - the Texas 31st - to see how townsfolk deeply affected by our presence in Iraq are expressing their feelings at the ballot box. This solidly-red district is home to Fort Hood, the largest active duty army base in America, and almost everyone living there has a personal connection to the war. Is the war in Iraq changing the minds of even the most entrenched voters?
"Everybody here has felt the pain of what's going on," Jerry Morris, a district resident and retired Army Major told NOW. "So I think people here are more willing to say, 'maybe we need to rethink what we're doing.'"