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Will Georgia war and Kashmir tensions influence U.S. voters?

August 11, 2008 |  2:10 pm

As if the Russian-Georgian conflict wasn't adding enough tension to the world stage, it looks like the long-running conflict over the Kashmir province on the India-Pakistan border is heating up.

Sheikh Abdul Aziz, an influential separatist leader, was shot and killed by police as he led a march by roughly 100,000 Muslims attempting to breach the border, the Times of London reports. The march waskashmiri muslim women mourn a man killed last week as tensions escalate in Kashmir, another hotspot that could influence U.S. presidential election between John McCain and Barack Obama part of an escalation of tensions that began ratcheting up in June, and the killing is likely to add fuel to the fire.

We'll let other blogs dissect the underlying issues and implications of that complicated situation in Kashmir. Its relevance here: With war underway in Georgia, if Kashmir erupts into broader violence, then Americans' political attention could well shift from the economy to increased concerns about foreign policy and U.S. national security.

With the economy as the top issue, Barack Obama has been topping John McCain in polls. But if war and national security move back to the forefront, that could shift the balance among the undecideds and independents and give McCain a chance to reestablish himself among an electorate that already says it is tiring of Obama. And it's the kind of calculation that the McCain insiders apparently have already been contemplating.

No one knows, obviously, what will happen. But the shifting conditions in both places are a reminder that it will likely be future -- and unknowable -- events and actions that will weigh heaviest on how the election turns out. On both sides, the easy votes have been won. The hard votes are, in many cases, those who aren't even paying attention yet. And who knows what fears or ambitions will push them which way?

-- Scott Martelle

Photo credit: Mukhtar Khan / Associated Press

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