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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

Plurality-Winning Governors Elected At Century-Long High Water Mark

The rate of gubernatorial candidates elected without the support of a majority of voters is at its highest level since the 1910s.

Political Crumbs

Seeing Red

Congressman Nick Rahall's failed bid for a 20th term in West Virginia this cycle, combined with a narrow loss by Nick Casey to Alex Mooney in Shelley Moore Capito's open seat, means that West Virginia Democrats will be shut out of the state's U.S. House delegation for the first time in over 90 years. The Republican sweep by two-term incumbent David McKinley in the 1st CD, Mooney in the 2nd, and Evan Jenkins over Rahall in the 3rd marks the first time the GOP has held all seats in the chamber from West Virginia since the Election of 1920. During the 67th Congress (1921-1923) all six seats from the state were controlled by the GOP. Since the Election of 1922, Democrats have won 76 percent of all U.S. House elections in the Mountain State - capturing 172 seats compared to 54 for the GOP.


Home Field Advantage?

When the 114th Congress convenes in a few days, Maine will be represented by one home-grown U.S. Representative: Waterville-born Republican Bruce Poliquin. With the departure of Millinocket-born Mike Michaud, who launched a failed gubernatorial bid, the Pine Tree State was poised to send a House delegation to D.C. without any Maine-born members for the first time since 1821. Three-term U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (born in Minnesota) coasted to reelection as expected, however Poliquin edged Kentucky-born Emily Cain by 5.3 points to keep the streak alive. Since 1876, a total of 208 of the 222 candidates elected to the nation's lower legislative chamber from the state have been born in Maine, or 94 percent.


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