Novak: McCain's 'aggressive surge' stance backfiring

Ron Brynaert and Mike Sheehan
Published: Wednesday December 27, 2006
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In the latest Evans-Novak Political Report, conservative columnist Robert Novak suggests that Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) "aggressive" push for a U.S. troop expansion -- or "surge" -- in Iraq may be costing the top 2008 GOP contender in the polls, especially when matched against another presumed front-runner, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY).

"The decline in the polls of [McCain], as measured against [Clinton], reflects more than declining Republican popularity nationally in the weeks after the election," writes Novak in his exclusive report. "It connotes public disenchantment with McCain's aggressive advocacy of a 'surge' of up to 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq."

One recent poll shows Clinton -- who hasn't confirmed her intent to run for president yet -- pulling ahead of McCain, who recently launched his own exploratory committee website. According to the Newsweek poll, voters with their choices limited to just the pair, prefer Clinton by seven percent (Clinton earned 50% to McCain's 43%, with 7% opting for "undecided, other").

Novak warns that unless the expanded U.S. force in Iraq yields quick results, "President George W. Bush's determination to put more boots on the ground is feared by Republicans as another political burden to bear."

Yet McCain presses on, despite "the American public's growing impatience for the end of the war," Holly Bailey wrote for Newsweek two weeks ago.

Republicans "are growing unhappy with the war," Bailey reported, including voters in critical states such as South Carolina, where McCain lost to Bush in the 2000 GOP primaries, which essentially marked the end of his last presidential bid.

"Even in conservative New Hampshire," Bailey adds, citing a state poll, "38 percent of voters now support bringing troops 'home ASAP.'"

"People are wondering how long this is going to go on," a Republican Columbia, South Carolina committeeman told Newsweek. "I don't think a proposal like [a troop surge] is going to get McCain any votes down here."

But Bailey concluded that, despite unfavorable signs, "some members of McCain's inner circle are convinced the position could actually work to his advantage, reminding independents of the maverick they fell in love with in 2000."

On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that McCain's troop push was "personal."

"John McCain's public certainty about Iraq masks a more private and potentially wrenching connection," Elizabeth Williamson wrote. "If more troops go there, as McCain hopes they will, his youngest son could be one of them, taking his place in a line of family warriors that is one of the longest in U.S. history."

Edwards, Clinton and Obama

Earlier today, the 2004 Democratic Vice Presidential candidate, former Senator John Edwards, stepped into the race, as Raw Story reported, one day earlier than expected due to an Internet mix-up.

Novak's latest column claimed that freshman Democratic Senator Barack Obama had made up his mind, as well, and would run for certain in 2008, now that security fears based on his race had been "dismissed as a problem."

Novak added that the Illinois senator's "strength" was partly responsible for Clinton's recent statements that she would have opposed the invasion of Iraq, if she had full knowledge of the information which came to light afterwards. Obama was against the war, and even participated in anti-war rallies.

Edwards has gone even further than Clinton, by apologizing in a Washington Post Op-Ed last year for also voting to pass the October of 2002 resolution which authorized President Bush to go to war against Iraq if deemed necessary.