by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
One is the increasing salience of foreign policy and the increasing discontent with the foreign policies of the Obama administration. This was not the case in the first Obama term, when the president got negative marks on most domestic issues but passing grades on foreign policy.
Thus the 2012 Obama campaign spent little time or money highlighting the incumbent’s great policy achievement, Obamacare. It highlighted instead his administration’s success in killing Osama bin Laden — a proxy for the broader argument that he was ending disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and reducing the threat of Islamist terrorists (never explicitly identified that way) to tolerable levels.
Mitt Romney was ridiculed for calling Russia our number one geopolitical foe and for insisting the terrorist threat was not quelled. And of course he brought no foreign policy experience to the table.
Now the polls are the other way around. Obama’s job rating has risen slightly as more Americans have come to believe the economy is improving. But on foreign policy, most recently on his response to the Islamic State, his ratings are negative. …
… The other major development that may make this cycle different is a change in the minds of Republican primary voters. In 2010 and 2012 they were inclined to support outspoken, even incendiary candidates.
They were reacting angrily not only to President Obama, whom they hoped would be lose re-election, but to many of the policies of George W. Bush. In 2014, with Obama re-elected and Hillary Clinton leading in 2016 polls, they chose less provocative nominees who seemed to have better chances in the general election.