GOP rhetoric on Iraq fails to persuade

When President Obama announced that all U.S. troops would be out of Iraq by the end of the year — a promise that came to fruition last week — the response from Republican presidential candidates was immediate: they were outraged. What’s more, the usual suspects, including John McCain and Lindsey Graham, made the rounds, telling the broadcast networks that the end of the war is a terrible development.

It appears that the GOP’s pushback against the end of the war hasn’t proven persuasive.

Most Americans agree with the decision to end the war in Iraq, according to a CNN/ORC International poll released Wednesday. Almost eight in ten said they support removal of combat troops from that country by the end of this year.

Poking around the internals (pdf), it looks like the end of the war enjoys broad support among Americans, regardless of age, race, gender, income levels, or region. The weakest support came from Republicans and self-identified conservatives, and even clear majorities of these groups support the Obama administration’s policy.

Every single Republican presidential candidate (except Ron Paul) condemned Obama for ending the war and not leaving thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely. The GOP field hasn’t persuaded much of anyone.

That includes Mitt Romney, by the way, who called the end of U.S. mission in Iraq an “astonishing failure.” Romney, it turns out, was for the war, then unwilling to state a position on the war, then against the war. This is the same Republican presidential hopeful who once said he’d “set a deadline for bringing the troops home” from Iraq — but only if it’s a secret deadline; said it’s “entirely possible” that Saddam Hussein hid weapons of mass destruction in Syria prior to the 2003 invasion; and made the bizarre assertion that IAEA weapons inspectors were not allowed entry into Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

I suspect coherence on Iraq probably won’t make too big a difference in the 2012 election, but for those who take the issue seriously, it’s safe to say President Obama has the upper hand.