by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Democratic insiders have concluded that Trump is unusually vulnerable on national security for a Republican, an assessment based on proprietary polling and focus groups. But they warn that the leading Democratic candidates, most of whom prefer to discuss domestic issues such as healthcare popular with the liberal base, are squandering this opening.
The Democratic field has been virtually radio silent on the range of threats facing the United States, from terrorism to illegal immigration to cyberattacks. Liberal foreign policy experts fear the failure to both acknowledge these key national security issues and offer contrasting solutions could cede crucial political ground to Trump once the general election rolls around.
“One of the challenges Democrats have had over the past two-and-a-half years is that they’ve been in a reactive tactical frame, letting Trump set the terms of the conversation,” added Brian Katulis, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington. “The 2020 field, so far, has not yet mined the possibilities with Americans in a way that competes with Trump’s ‘America First’ nationalism.”
But the vast majority of Democratic primary voters are not that interested in a debate over national security.
“At this early stage, when you’re trying to get ahead of the pack, there is not a lot of plus side in talking about stuff that no one is interested in,” Joe Trippi, a veteran operative of Democratic presidential campaigns, said.