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New poll: Voters see GOP-McCain surge on national security over Obama's Democrats

September 6, 2008 |  4:20 pm

Oh-oh. Did you just feel the ground shake a little -- and not only in California's earthquake zones?

With new polls showing the presidential race still essentially tied, even after all the conveRepublican presidential nominee Arizona Senator John mcCainon a recent visit to Iraqntions' hoopla and doo-dah, another poll that probes deeper finds voters' concerns over national security shifting -- and not in a good direction for Democrats.

The elections of 2006, which were about congressional incompetence except when it came to Republican corruption, gave the Democrats control of both houses and showed that their party had essentially tied the GOP in terms of voter respect over national security, long a Republican strong suit.

No more. As our blogging colleague Mark Silva notes, the wimp factor about Democrats has returned to shadow voters' minds. The national security gap has reopened. Democrats are regaining their reputation with voters as wimps.

Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner has just released a survey that indicates voters perceive Republicans once again as far and away better on national security issues than Democrats.

Forty nine percent of those surveyed thought....

...Republicans were better on national security while 35% thought Democrats better. When it came to combating terrorism, 48% thought Republicans superior to Democrats while 33% gave Democrats the advantage.

It shows voters once again seeing Democrats as following the polls to determine their national security stances and appearing timid to use force in the nation's defense.

Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama visits US troops in Iraq for breakfast

This could blossom into a serious problem for the Obama-Biden ticket and down-ballot races -- or opportunity for Republicans -- by Nov. 4.

The presence of Sen. John McCain, a former POW and the only military veteran on either ticket, atop the Republican ballot could be crucial.

According to the Greenberg study's researchers:

"The national security credibility gap is returning. Old doubts about Democrats on security, after diminishing during 2006-2007, have begun to re-emerge:

"concerns that Democrats follow the polls rather than principle;

"that Democrats are indecisive and are afraid to use force;

"and that Democrats don't support the military.

"Because these weaknesses are longstanding and deeply ingrained, and because Republican weaknesses are newer and do not yet have a label associated with them, Republicans continue to win on many security issues."

The Greenberg poll, done for the think tank Third Way, echoes a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll which found a large lead for Republican McCain over his Democratic rival Sen. Barack Obama, with McCain holding a 10 point lead over Obama on the question: who would be better on the Iraq war, a 25 point lead on the handling of international crises and a 28 point lead on being better able to handle terrorism.

Results like these in part explain why the Republicans stressed the military and terrorism at their recently completed convention in St. Paul, Minn., a convention which, surprising to some drew a larger telervision audience than the Democratic festivities in Denver the previous week.

At this week's St. Paul events Republicans were clearly trying to run up the score on the Democrats in the national security area with only about eight weeks to go.

Silva has more on this new poll here at the Swamp.

--Andrew Malcolm

Photo credits: Associated Press

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