The Republican wave election of 2014 was the result of voter dissatisfaction on a variety of fronts. As in 2006, when voters elected Democrats on the strength of frustration with the Iraq War, foreign policy was a major part of the sixth-year rebuke to President Barack Obama. Tension in the U.S.-Israel relationship–crystallized in the “chickensh*t” controversy the week before the election–may have cost Democrats at least one U.S. House seat.
For example, former GOP congressman Bob Dold defeated freshman Democrat incumbent Brad Schneider in the 10th district of Illinois, one of the most pro-Israel districts in the country–and one that had been redrawn by state Democrats in 2011 to ensure that a Republican would not win the seat again. Polls showed Schneider ahead with a few weeks to go, then even as the election neared–but none forecast the significant Dold victory.
The controversy that erupted when unnamed senior Obama administration official referred to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “chickensh*t” may have contributed to that late surge. “Israel is salient in people’s minds, given the demographic in the district. The proximity of the comment and the flareup in relation to the election just brought that to the fore that much more,” said local pro-Israel activist Oren Dekalo.
“Despite having a Jewish incumbent [in Schneider], there’s a lot of dissatisfaction with how our representative stood up for Israel, or rather failed to stand up for Israel,” Dekalo added.
Dold himself said that the Israel controversy was merely part of a larger foreign policy crisis. “I’m not sure that the ‘chickensh*t’ controversy was, in and of itself, a direct cause…there were a number of things as you look at the U.S.-Israel relationship.
In Virginia, where the Senate race remains surprisingly too-close-to-call, foreign policy also played a factor in Republican Ed Gillespie’s comeback against incumbent Democrat Mark Warner. Conservative War Chest–the only outside group, apparently, targeting the race–released an ad (below) that focused on foreign policy, reminding voters in the defense-heavy state of Obama’s foreign policy crises, from Benghazi to Jerusalem:
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak