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Iraq, Coleman, and Minnesotans' Views on the War

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Norm Coleman has taken specific measures during the last few months to distinguish himself from his Republican Party that has by and large backed President George W. Bush's efforts in the War in Iraq during the past 3+ years. In January Coleman was quick to relay concerns about the President's plan to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq. This month he broke with his Party's leadership by trying to bust a GOP filibuster to prevent a floor debate on a resolution criticizing that troop build-up.

Many commentators have speculated that Coleman (along with other GOP Senate incumbents up for election in 2008) is strategically framing his positions on Iraq much more in line with his constituency which, along with most of America, has become increasing critical of Bush's handling of the war and skeptical of the reasons for which it was started.

To the extent Coleman needs to answer his critics and skeptics, he will have that opportunity on the campaign trail next year if not before. The question Smart Politics investigates today is the extent to which Minnesota has soured on the Iraq campaign.

The most recent Minnesota Poll data from October 2006 found those Minnesotans viewing the United States' efforts to bring stability and order to Iraq as going badly outnumbered those who viewed it as going well by a 2.5 to 1 margin: 70 percent to 28 percent. That is a moderate increase from nearly two years prior when 58 percent viewed the U.S. effort as going badly, compared to 39 percent who viewed it as going well (MN Poll, January 2005). Nearly one year into the campaign the numbers were reversed: 64 percent positive versus 34 percent negative (MN Poll, December 2003).

Minnesotans are also quite critical of President Bush's handling of the war. In four polls conducted by the Minnesota Poll in 2003 Bush averaged an Iraq approval rating of 61 percent. In 2004, Bush's Iraq approval rating dropped noticeablely to 42 and 40 percent in two Minnesota Poll's taken late in that year's presidential campaign. Bush's rating on Iraq also dropped from 49 percent in a 2004 MPR / Pioneer press poll to just 26 percent last autumn (MPR / Pioneer Press Poll, September 2006).

What do Minnesotans want the U.S. to do about what the vast majority view as a poorly handled situation in Iraq? A September 2006 MPR / Pioneer Press poll found 55 percent supporting the establishment of a timetable for the withdrawal of troops, with 35 percent opposed to such a strategy.

It is impossible to say how events will unfold in Iraq during the next two years, or whether or not the Iraq war will be the most important issue to Minnesotans when casting their vote for Senator in 2008. It is quite unlikely, however, that the issue will be off the table, and, as such, decisions and statements made now by Coleman and whomever the DFL nominee will be in 2008 are certainly going to be scrutinized down the road.

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Remains of the Data

Which States Own the Best Track Record in Backing Eventual GOP Presidential Nominees?

Nine states (each with primaries) have an unblemished record in voting for the eventual Republican nominee since 1976 - and not all host contests on the back end of the calendar.

Political Crumbs

Evolving?

When Scott Walker "punted" back in February after being asked if he was comfortable with the idea of evolution he added, "That's a question a politician shouldn't be involved in one way or the other." However, it may very well be a question that is asked at one of the upcoming GOP debates this year. In South Carolina during the first GOP debate in 2012, FOX News' Juan Williams asked Tim Pawlenty, "Do you equate the teaching of creationism with the teaching of evolution as the basis for what should be taught for our nation's schools?" Pawlenty replied, "There should be room in the curriculum for study of intelligent design" but that it was up to the local school districts if it should be in a science class or comparative theory class. At the fourth Republican debate held in California, Jon Huntsman addressed the GOP becoming "anti-science" thusly: "Listen, when you make comments that fly in the face of what 98 out of 100 climate scientists have said, when you call into question the science of evolution, all I'm saying is that, in order for the Republican Party to win, we can't run from science. We can't run from mainstream conservative philosophy."


73 Months and Counting

January's preliminary Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show Minnesota's unemployment rate of 3.7 percent was once again lower than Wisconsin's 5.0 percent. That marks the 73rd consecutive month in which Minnesota has boasted a lower jobless rate than its neighbor to the east dating back to January 2009 including each of the last 67 months by at least one point. The Gopher State has now edged Wisconsin in the employment border battle for 204 of the last 216 months dating back to February 1997. Wisconsin only managed a lower unemployment rate than Minnesota for the 12 months of 2008 during this 18-year span.


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