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As Obama ponders another Afghan strategy, his once-staunch Republican support plummets

October 21, 2009 |  2:04 am

US war dead return from Afghanistan

One-hundred percent of this morning's new Afghanistan war polling is bad news for Barack Obama's administration. In fact, it's a double-dose of bad news:

One, it confirms the developing trend of crumbling civilian support for the military struggle launched late in 2001 to oust the Taliban and deny Afghanistan as a safe haven for Al Qaeda terrorist training for any future 9/11-style attacks.

Two, the new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows the Democratic president's support fading sharply among the heretofore strongest supporters of Obama's "war of necessity" -- Republicans.

And the latest Post/ABC poll bolsters two surveys earlier this month, both showing support for the eight-year struggle crumbling.

The results come in the midst of a surprisingly long new White House review of...

...military strategy that was supposed to have been set last March when the president ordered his first troop surge there. Things change, they say. Like the poll numbers.

This delay -- the new policy is not expected for two more weeks at least -- and certain altered rhetorical lines plus recent comments by his aides cause increased speculation of an impending change in the president's oft-professed campaign...

...and post-inauguration commitment to defeating Al Qaeda and the Taliban while bolstering a nascent democratic regime in that historically fractured tribal land.On Tuesday under international pressure, Afghan President Karzai accepted a runoff election next month (see video above).

Such doubts could help explain GOP supporters striding away from their previous support of the former senator, who made his initial political name over opposition to the Iraq war.

Last month, once-strong Republican support for Obama's handling of the Afghan conflict had drifted down to 51%. This month with the protracted review ongoing and casualties up, the bottom fell out; GOP support plummeted to 22%.

Today, more than 80% of Republicans, roughly two-thirds of independents and nearly half of the Democrat's own party believe he does not have a clear plan for handling the war. Watch for him to play a more dramatic communications card -- an explanatory Oval Office address in the not-too-distant future.

Overall, 57% of the 1,004 Americans polled between Oct. 15-17 approve of Obama's performance as commander in chief.

Regarding Afghanistan specifically, in April nearly two-thirds (63%) approved.

However, now he is losing on both ends of the poll: Today only 45% approve, down 10 whole points in one month. Worse, 47% now disapprove, up 10 whole points in the same month.

Obama's war support among fellow Democrats is also lame, auguring ill for party unity heading into a crucial midterm election year if the president proceeds with another unpopular troop surge. Barely a third of Democrats favor a reported 40,000 troop increase. Fully 61% oppose that.

Likely much of these numbers are tied to U.S. casualties, which have climbed with U.S. troop deployments (now about 68,000) and with their more aggressive tactics. With more than two months left in 2009, this year's U.S. deaths there total  418, 42% larger than during all of 2008.

That's about one American soldier's death every 16 hours.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Associated Press