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Americans' thoughts of the war diminish

November 9, 2007 |  8:08 pm

An interesting but little-noticed poll came out today from the Pew Research Center that could have some long-term effects on the '08 presidential campaign.

It's not about voters and their genders and favorite candidate and their negative ratings. It's about the average citizen's interest in certain news stories. Public interest in news of the Iraq war has plummeted.

On Jan. 12-15, for instance, 55% of Americans said the war was the first news story that came to mind, way far ahead of some kidnapped boys in Missouri (7%) and winter weather (5%). This month, on Nov. 2-5, only 16% named the Iraq conflict as the first story, only slightly ahead of California wildfires (13%) and the presidential campaign (10%).

Speaking of the presidential campaign, the Iraq war was supposed to be a major weight around the neck of every Republican and a huge bonus for Democrats. It still is the major issue for the Democratic left and those candidates continue to talk about withdrawal while Congressional Democrats, who appear largely to have given up on forcing President Bush to withdraw, still are trying various legislative strategies to show their constituency they're trying.

But for most of the country, Pew finds, the war is drawing less interest as well as less media coverage, which may well be linked. Additionally, much of the war news that does appear is much more encouraging about allied successes on the ground and diminished monthly casualties.

At this rate of melting, the Iraq war issue may well not help the Democrats much in the general electorate during the long months of the 2008 campaign. So what will take its place? The economy? (Bad for Republicans.) Gas prices? (The same.) National security? Say, there's a terrorist attack or a thwarted one?

Americans haven't elected a sitting legislator as president in 47 years. And four of the last five elected presidents have been governors. The fifth one was a sitting vice president.

--Andrew Malcolm