Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is banking on the traditional Republican advantage in defense to help him defeat Democratic President Barack Obama this November.
This Republican strategy of painting Democrats as soft on defense has a long pedigree in American politics. It certainly seems to have worked in the past. But will it still?
“In my view, Romney shouldn’t bet on it this time,” says University of Notre Dame Political Science Professor Michael Desch, who specializes in foreign and national defense policies.
“Since the epochal election of 1972, in which anti-Vietnam War sentiment rocketed the dovish South Dakota Sen. George McGovern into orbit as his party’s ultimately unsuccessful nominee for president, the Democratic Party has been attacked by the GOP as soft on defense.”
But the election of Barack Obama in 2008, at a time in which widespread war-weariness had finally set in, may have finally broken the mold which casts Republicans as strong on defense and Democrats as “war wimps,” according to Desch.
“Barack Obama has much better standing with the vets than any previous Democrat. He will not be defeated on those grounds. The problem is that national security issues are likely to have less salience in the November election,” Desch says.
“Still, President Obama’s speech yesterday at the VFW convention was like Romney speaking to the NAACP: It’s not likely to win him too many new votes given the overwhelmingly Republican orientation of the vets, but it is also a sign of confidence that he can challenge Romney there.”
“Moreover, this Democratic president hardly seems skittish about using force. He has waged the drone war with al-Qaida with much more vigor than his Republican predecessor, he doubled down the U.S. commitment in Afghanistan at a time when many thought it was a bad bet, he stiffened NATO’s spine to provide air support for the successful anti-Qaddafi uprising in Libya, and most importantly, he put the big coon-skin on the side of the barn that W failed to do with the daring Navy SEAL strike against Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.”