Today, the Senate is expected to approve a measure that would authorize the arming and training of the Syrian rebels to fight ISIS, after the House passed it yesterday. A large number of House Democrats voted for the measure, but what’s also striking is how divided the Democratic Party already is, even at this early stage.
A majority of House Dems voted Yes, but as the Post observes, more than 40 percent of House Democrats voted No, out of concern that “new U.S. military operations in the Middle East could fester for several years with no clear strategy or definition of success.” And the New York Times account of the vote contains this telling drama:
Fewer than 140 of the 429 House members who voted Wednesday were in the House in 2002 when Congress authorized the invasion of Iraq. For the vast majority of lawmakers, Wednesday’s was their clearest vote on war and peace. But that 2002 vote hung heavily over the six hours of debate on Tuesday and Wednesday. Several veterans of the Iraq War stood against the president’s request. Older Democrats recalled with bitterness their vote to back the invasion of Iraq, a vote that ended many careers.“The last time people took a political vote like this in this House, it was on the Iraq War,” Representative Loretta Sanchez, Democrat of California, said, “and many of my colleagues say it was the worst vote they ever took.”
Yet many Democrats are voting for war again. To be sure, this isn’t the major authorization vote; we may get a Congressional vote on the broader American escalation after the election. President Obama has vowed no combat troops, and Nancy Pelosi has drawn a hard line against that, too.
But the question is, once the war train leaves the station, and events take on their own momentum, how realistic is it to expect a serious Congressional debate, and who’s to say whether talk won’t turn to sending in ground troops, depending on what happens?
A new CBS/NYT poll finds that 68 percent of Democrats favor air strikes against ISIS in Syria, but 65 percent of Democrats oppose sending in ground troops. This, combined with the fact that nearly half of House Democrats voted against even arming the rebels, suggests that if things go wrong — or if talk does turn to ground troops, as improbable as that may be — more serious and even searing divisions among Dems over war cannot be dismissed as a possibility.
I don’t know if any serious challenger to Hillary Clinton will emerge. But many liberal activists remain skeptical of her hawkish tendencies. And so one cannot rule out the possibility that next year, war could once again become an issue in a Democratic presidential primary — seven years after it helped a first-term Senator from Illinois topple the supposedly inevitable Dem nominee.
* NORTH CAROLINA SENATE RACE MOVES TOWARDS DEMS: Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball shifts the race from “Toss-Up” to “Leans Democratic,” arguing that GOP challenger Thom Tillis has prohibitively high unfavorable numbers and is tied to the unpopular state legislature.
Even though the president remains unpopular nationally, this state is several points more Democratic than Alaska, Arkansas, or Louisiana, three states where Democratic incumbents with deeper roots and better reputations as campaigners are in more trouble than Hagan is at the moment. President Obama’s not the drag here that he is in those states, though he is still a drag.
Another sign North Carolina is shifting. Holding the purple states — North Carolina, Colorado, Iowa — is central to keeping the majority. Crystal Ball also shifts the New Hampshire race but says Jeanne Shaheen is still the favorite.
* IOWA RACE STILL A DEAD HEAT: A new Fox News poll finds Dem Bruce Braley and GOPer Joni Ernst deadlocked at 41-41 among Iowa likely voters. Yesterday’s Quinnipiac poll showing Ernst up six got a lot of attention, but the Fox poll is closer to the polling average, which shows Ernst up 1.4 (thanks in part to the Q-poll). The race is all but certainly a dead heat.
* OTHER SENATE POLLS: Another Fox poll finds independent Greg Orman leading GOP Senator Pat Roberts in Kansas by 48-42 when you take the Dem out of the question. And a new Quinnipiac poll finds Colorado Dem Senator Mark Udall trailing GOPer Cory Gardner by … eight points! To put it mildly, that’s out of sync with the polling average, which puts Udall up by 2.3 points.
* ROVE WARNS GOP AGAINST OVERCONFIDENCE: Karl Rove explains why “each passing day brings evidence as to why a GOP Senate majority is still in doubt.” The piece is mostly a rallying cry to GOP donors, but this is interesting:
Women do view attacks on Republicans over social issues as a way to determine whether a candidate is outside the mainstream. If GOP candidates address these concerns in a reasonable fashion, they undermine the Democrats’ anti-women meme and can pivot successfully to larger issues. That’s why Planned Parenthood has reacted with such fury to Republican Senate candidates in Alaska, Colorado and North Carolina saying they support making contraceptives available over-the-counter.
Of course, Rove’s own Crossroads GPS has reacted by running ads designed to simply change the subject, which suggests that Dems really are turning cultural issues to their advantage.
* BIG MONEY INFLUENCE AS LONG-TERM ISSUE: Liberal groups such as the PCCC and 350 Action are pushing House GOP energy chair Fred Upton to contribute cash raised from energy interests to a fund for cleaning up a gas line rupture in Michigan. The challenge for liberals: To push big money’s influence on to the national agenda — see the attacks on the Kochs — at a time when action by Congress is hopeless and SCOTUS is dismantling protections.
* NEW AD BLITZ FROM ALISON GRIMES: Alison Lundergan Grimes’ campaign is up with a heartstrings-tugging minute-long ad in which she and her grandmother discusses her grandfather’s stroke, tying it to criticism of Mitch McConnell for voting to raise the Medicare retirement age. The ad has the feel of an effort to reintroduce Grimes after polls showing her trailing. It’s also a reminder that Dems will continue to make Medicare an issue in multiple races, as they did in 2012.