March 3

What’s a GOP candidate to do about Ukraine? America is embarrassed, President Obama is on the back foot — so why not take a shot? Remember, Lee Atwater always said, “Never kick a man when he is up.”

Is there any selfish good that could come from saying, “Politics stops at the water’s edge and I will refrain from airing any disagreement with or criticism I have of the president at this time?” As wacky as that might sound, I think it just might be the way to go. Hear me out.

First, foreign policy does not drive any votes. Second, national security issues are off-message for Republican candidates. It’s all about the economy and health care; don’t forget that.  Third, a candidate might get credit with squishy independent voters who are not particularly interested in — and certainly not eagerly anticipating — another predictable Republican blast at the president, this time about Ukraine. Most voters couldn’t find Ukraine on the map with three tries. Fourth and finally, who knows? The candidate might make a nano-contribution to making Russian President Vladimir Putin think President Obama has some political maneuvering room and he MIGHT take our president more seriously than he obviously does. Regardless of how we got here, doesn’t the president need us to collectively have his back right now? Is there a downside, in the near term, to taking a pass and seeing what happens?

If you are in a GOP primary and your opponent has already asked the State Republican Executive Committee to impeach the president again (this time over his handling of the Ukraine invasion), adopted a Ukrainian orphan named Maiden and accused you of coddling Putin, counterattack by saying we should be talking about Obamacare and the economy and that your opponent is just trying to distract voters from knowing he or she is soft on Medicaid expansion. Spring the trap!

Even if you get there for cynical reasons and selfish motives, a modicum of restraint may be the best politics, at least in the near term. You can always double back and unload.

Follow Ed on Twitter:  @EdRogersDC