Friday, February 29, 2008

The Domestic Policy Gap

Since Tuesday night's Democratic debate, Senators Obama and McCain have sparred over each other's positions on the Iraq War and foreign policy. While the Iraq War is an important issue, and one in which the candidates clearly differ, most indicators are that domestic policy will play the dominant role in the upcoming general election. This can be confirmed by looking at the exit poll results from CNN's Election Center, which list which issues voters considered most important. I've summarized the results for 6 states below:

State Democratic Issues Republican Issues
Missouri Economy 55%, Health Care 22%, Iraq 19% Economy 44%, Iraq 20%, Illegal Immigration 18%, Terrorism 13%
Georgia Economy 54%, Health Care 21%, Iraq 21% Economy 42%, Illegal Immigration 22%, Iraq 18$, Terrorism 13%
California Economy 46%, Iraq 32%, Health Care 19% Economy 34%, Illegal Immigration 28%, Iraq 19%, Terrorism 15%
Virginia Economy 49%, Iraq 30%, Health Care 17% Economy 32%, Iraq 24%, Terrorism 21%, Illegal Immigration 19%
New York Economy 46%, Iraq 30%, Health Care 20% Economy 42%, Iraq 20%, Terrorism 18%, Illegal Immigration 17%
Tennessee Economy 52%, Iraq 23%, Health Care 22% Economy 37%, Illegal Immigration 25%, Iraq 17%, Terrorism 17%

The highest poll for military/foreign affairs was among Virginia Republicans where Iraq and Terrorism combined for 45%. For the other states, Republicans polled this combination in the mid 30s, while Democrats polled Iraq by itself between 17% and 30%. All the poll results show the economy as the top issue ranging from 32% for Virginia Republicans to 55% for Missouri Democrats. Democrats cited health care as an important issue (17%-22%) while Republicans looked at illegal immigration (17%-28%)

While these numbers are no surprise given the condition of our economy, they should cause concern for Senator McCain. If you look at his record of bills/amendments introduced and passed since 2003 (tab McCain Categorized on the Spreadsheet), you will notice that much of his effort is focused in the defense/foreign policy arena. Out of the 92 bills and amendments he proposed and passed over the last 5 years, 60 of them came in the areas of defense, foreign policy or native-american relations. Looking at just the last 3 years, that number is 36 out of 43 total. Additionally, many of the bills I have classified as "other" are homeland security related, hardly falling under the economy, health-care, illegal immigration umbrella.

It is clear that domestic policy has not been an area of great concentration for Senator McCain. He has admitted himself that he doesn't know as much as he should about the economy, as this video shows. While this is understandable given his extensive military background, Senator McCain's foreign policy expertise may not be enough to win this election, especially considering that many of his foreign policy positions have not been very popular. Senator McCain will have to work very hard to close the domestic policy gap if he is going to make a convincing case to the American people this fall.

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