Poll: More voters trust Republicans to fight terror than ever before.

Poll: More Voters Trust Republicans to Fight Terror Than Ever Before

Poll: More Voters Trust Republicans to Fight Terror Than Ever Before

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 15 2014 11:14 AM

Poll: More Voters Trust Republicans to Fight Terror Than Ever Before

But John Kerry is the one ready with an uppercut.

Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

It was released on 9/11, but only now do I see how Gallup asked people about the parties' handling of terrorism. You could hardly imagine a better result for the Republicans.


A little context? OK. In November 2008, voters who participated in the exit poll who said that they were worried about "another terrorist attack in the U.S."—70 percent of voters—narrowly broke for McCain over Obama, 50-48. By 2012, fear of terrorism had sunk so far into the rearview mirror that this question was not even asked. But by a 56-33 margin, voters who were concerned with "foreign policy" broke for Obama.

Here's the current paradox. The Obama administration—most reliably Chuck Hagel and John Kerry—is describing ISIS in apocalyptic terms. According to Kerry, ISIS is "an ambitious, avowed genocidal, territorial-grabbing, Caliphate-desiring quasi-state." Their goal is not really to downplay what ISIS can actually achieve, or to reflect the intelligence analysis that ISIS poses little threat to (ugh, this term) "the homeland." It's to avoid a Syria-style rebellion in Congress and assemble a coalition of Arab partners in the Levant.

But Democrats do not benefit, domestically, from the hype. Just today, New Hampshire U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown challenged Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen to secure the border and sign on to legislation that would revoke the citizenship of American ISIS fighters. "If anyone (including ISIS) can cross our borders at any time, with anything in their possession, then Washington has no control over our nation's security from terrorist attack," said Brown. That statement sounds like incoherent heebie-jeebie-ism if you listen to intelligence assessments. Current estimates peg the total number of Americans who might have gone to Iraq and Syria for ISIS at fewer than 100. The threat of such an American, if he returned, is not that he'd cross an unprotected border with a knife between his teeth and jihadism on his mind. It's that he'd use his American passport at a normal TSA checkpoint.

These are the sort of questions you can paper over when your party has a 2-1 lead on "preventing terrorism." Democrats' own polling has Brown down 8; public polling has him in a tie, after weeks of attacks on the threat of unsecured borders, and the zero attacks they have enabled since one day 13 years ago.

David Weigel is a reporter for the Washington Post.