With the polls moving against President Obama both nationally and in the swing states, all the pressure is on him in tonight’s debate to project American strength on foreign policy. Polls show that in the aftermath of the devastating murders of our ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, the American people are interested in a Reaganesque foreign policy. And Obama’s foreign policy is anything but.
According to the latest Pew Research Center polls, Americans are increasingly skeptical about the crown jewel of the Obama Doctrine: the Arab Spring. In April 2011, 42 percent of Americans thought that “changes in political leadership in Middle Eastern countries such in Libya, Egypt will lead to lasting improvements for people living in those countries.” Today, that number is 25 percent. Meanwhile, while 43 percent of Americans thought that such changes wouldn’t lead to lasting improvements in April 2011, today, that number is 57 percent. Americans believed in April 2011 by a 35-24 percent margin that the Arab Spring would be bad for the Untied States; today, it’s 36-14 percent. And Americans now believe by a 54-30 percent margin that “Stable governments, even if there is less democracy in the region,” is preferable to democratic governments with less stability. Among independents, that number is a whopping 62-27 margin.
All of this cuts against President Obama.
So too do Americans’ feelings about Iran. In January 2012, 50 percent of Americans wanted to take a firm stand against Iran; they said it was more important to take a firm stand than to avoid military conflict, as opposed to 41 percent who disagreed. Today, that number has shifted: it’s 56-35 percent in favor of firmness.
On China, Americans have moved from wanting a stronger relationship with China (53 percent in March 2011) to getting tough with China (49 percent in October 2012).
Romney has the advantage on all of these issues. Obama is a weakling; he attempts to project strength, but he fails. Among independent voters, Romney has a 16 percent advantage on China. And on Libya, the American people are largely split, which means that Romney has a teachable advantage tonight – 38 percent of Americans don’t like the way Obama has handled Libya, while 35 percent approve. A full 27 percent say they have no opinion.
Romney has the advantage tonight. He should press it.