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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

December 4: Worried About Terrorism? Ask a Democrat For Protection!

So every day Republicans seek to batten on fear of terrorism in a repetition of their success in 2002 and 2004, it’s important to recognize how much has changed since then. In particular, there is very recent evidence that a fear-based 2016 campaign message won’t necessarily work against Democrats, and specifically Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. I wrote about this today at New York:

With a thousand points of darkness pointing toward a fear-of-terrorism-based Republican presidential election, it’s important to remember that the likely Democratic nominee has some national-security credentials of her own. An ABC/Washington Post poll released last week shows that when Americans are asked “Who would you trust more to handle the threat of terrorism?” Hillary Clinton leads every named Republican rival.
The Post‘s Greg Sargent laid it out:

On the question of who is more trusted to handle terrorism, Clinton leads Trump among Americans by 50-42; she leads Ben Carson by 49-40; she leads Ted Cruz by 48-40; she leads Marco Rubio by 47-43; and she leads Jeb Bush by 46-43. In fairness, the last two of those are not statistically significant leads, and among registered voters, her lead “slims or disappears.” But this poll does suggest at a minimum that there is no clear edge for the GOP candidates over Clinton on the issue.
What’s striking here is that it comes even as Obama’s approval on terrorism is down to 40 percent. As Post polling guru Scott Clement notes, the poll shows a sizable bloc of voters who disapprove of Obama on terrorism but nonetheless say they trust Clinton over her GOP rivals on the issue.

So all the attacks on HRC about Benghazi! and alleged security breaches and her association with a president who has been attacked like no president since FDR haven’t significantly eroded her national security credentials. It’s not clear if that fact will convince Republicans to take another tack, or will instead incite them to go even more ballistic on terrorism and national security issues. We will know soon, and perhaps so loudly that even more votes will believe Democrats can bring them peace.

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