Trump's Iran attack could blow up in his face and cost him re-election
US President Donald Trump speaks during a joint press conference with the Palestinian leader at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017 (AFP Photo/MANDEL NGAN)

In a column for the Washington Post, a political scientist explained that any calculation made by Donald Trump that killing Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Suleimani would propel him to re-election may not only be ill-founded but also devastating to his campaign.

According to Michael Tesler, author of "Post-Racial or Most-Racial? Race and Politics in the Obama Era,” the president is likely counting on what is called the "rally around the flag" effect where voters put aside their differences in times of peril.

"The “rally around the flag” effect happens when international crises increase support for the president at home. This effect is a major reason some might suspect that attacking Iran would be politically beneficial for the president," he wrote, adding, "For example, both George H.W. and George W. Bush’s approval ratings immediately surged after their respective military interventions against Iraq. Trump seemed to literally want Americans to rally around the flag when he tweeted a picture of the American flag soon after Soleimani’s demise."

However, he noted, consolidation of support usually comes when there is bipartisan support -- even grudgingly -- for the president's actions which has not been the case in the drone attack that has put the world on edge over fears of a massive Middle Eastern war.

"The absence of bipartisan support for a deeply polarizing president’s actions makes it highly unlikely that attacking Iran will rally Americans in support of Trump," he explained. "An armed conflict with Iran that results in American casualties would therefore probably hurt Trump in 2020 rather than helping him."

According to Tessler, a look at recent polling provides a glimpse of how the public already feels about his latest actions -- particularly in relation to his ongoing impeachment.

"A July 2019 Gallup Poll found that 78 percent of Americans preferred diplomatic efforts over military action to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Nearly two-thirds of respondents in that survey were worried that the United States will be too quick to use military force against Iran," he wrote. "A September 2019 poll commissioned by the University of Maryland showed similar results. Only 20 percent of Americans in that survey said that the United States should be prepared to go to war with Iran to achieve its goals, compared to 76 percent who said that U.S. policy goals do not warrant waging war."

Tessler admitted that future events might help Trump in the future, but, as it stands now, absent a compelling case for the war-provoking attack, the president likely damaged his re-election hopes.

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