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Daily Fix Poll: Iraq and the midterms

By Felicia Sonmez

President Obama marks a major milestone in the Iraq war today when he delivers a prime-time Oval Office address -- only the second of his presidency -- announcing the end of U.S. combat operations in the country.

How will the announcement play out in this November's midterm elections?

Bringing the U.S. combat mission to an end was an important part of Obama's platform as a presidential candidate. He promised that all combat troops would be withdrawn within 16 months of taking office -- a timeline he extended to 18 months in a speech last February at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina -- and today, the administration and national Democrats can tout the end of the mission as a promise kept.

But the announcement comes amid uncertainty about the future of Iraq's security. Some analysts have cautioned that Obama should have held off his speech until the full formation of an Iraqi government, noting that if violence escalates, the wisdom of the deadline's timing could come into question.

In a July Washington Post-ABC News poll, Obama got his highest marks on and his duties as commander in chief of the military (55 percent) and his handling of the situation in Iraq (48 percent approval).

But Iraq is further from the minds of voters now than it was back when Obama was a candidate. In a Gallup poll earlier this month, only four percent of adults surveyed listed "wars/war" as the most important problem facing the country today, while thirty percent of respondents said the economy was the most pressing issue.

(Obama seems likely to also frame the war in terms of the economy tonight; previewing the speech, an administration official said that the president will talk about the "kind of expenses we've been making in Iraq versus the kind of investments we will be making here at home.")

On top of all that, there are plenty of avenues for Republicans to pursue in terms of Obama's handling of the war: they can remind voters that it was George W. Bush, not Obama, who adopted the surge strategy (as Sen. John McCain (R) writes in a Wall Street Journal op-ed today), or bring up Obama's famous 2002 "I'm opposed to dumb wars" speech as an Illinois state senator.

So, what will it all mean in November? Give us your thoughts below.

By Felicia Sonmez  | August 31, 2010; 11:26 AM ET
Categories:  Daily Fix Poll  
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