Eliminating the security gap

ELIMINATING THE SECURITY GAP…. Struggling in most areas of public policy, most notably the economy, Republicans have gone after President Obama on national security grounds — the one area that has favored the GOP in recent years. It’s led to a multi-prong offensive on everything from handshakes to Gitmo to torture.

And based on one new study, it’s not working.

A new Democracy Corps poll released by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner today shows that after 100 days in office, President Barack Obama has, at least for now effectively erased doubts that Americans have historically harbored about the Democratic Party’s vision and competence on national security.

For the first time in our research, Democrats are at full parity on perceptions of which party would best manage national security, while they have moved far ahead of the GOP on specific challenges such as Afghanistan, Iraq, working with our allies, and improving America’s image abroad.

Nearly two-thirds of likely voters — 64 percent — approve of the job Obama is doing on national security. That is 6 points higher than his already strong overall job approval rating (at 58 percent, the highest we have yet recorded). On other aspects of national security — from Iraq, to Afghanistan, to terrorism, to the president’s foreign diplomacy — the same is true: higher job approval ratings than on the President’s overall job approval.

Given their approval of the president’s performance on foreign affairs, voters flatly reject the claims from former Vice President Cheney and other Republicans that Obama’s policies put America at risk. By nearly a 2 to 1 margin, Americans say that President Obama is doing better, not worse, than his predecessor, George W. Bush, when it comes to national security.

In fairness, Democracy Corps is a Democratic outfit, and Stan Greenberg, who conducted the survey, is a Democratic pollster.

But the results don’t seem necessarily tilted. In fact, Obama’s approval rating in the poll (58%) is lower than in most other national surveys of late.

If accurate, the numbers show the GOP losing its one key policy advantage. While the poll shows Americans preferring Republicans on “ensuring a strong military,” Dems now lead on U.S. policy in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and in foreign policy in general. Asked which party they prefer on counter-terrorism, the two parties were tied.

A narrow majority of Americans said Bush’s policies “undermined” U.S. security interests, and a large majority said Obama is doing better than his predecessor on national security.

Joe Klein added, “[W]e should not underestimate the significance here: Obama is trying to do something far more complicated and sophisticated than Bush–comprehensive diplomacy takes time and great skill. It doesn’t have the immediate satisfactions of a bang-bang, three-week rush to Baghdad…. But, for the moment, the American people seem content with a more nuanced foreign policy, which is very good news, indeed.”