Jeffrey Goldberg makes a reasonable point concerning Republican presidential candidates who believe that Iran is a weakness for Barack Obama — that Obama has been “tougher” on Iran than George W. Bush was. Fair enough. On the other hand, I’m not sure that it matters in a campaign context; if swing voters believe that Obama has failed on Iraq and care about it, they’ll surely hold him responsible even if they can be convinced that Bush was worse (and the biggest advantage Obama has in that comparison, it seems to me, is skipped over by Goldberg: that Bush invaded Iran’s hostile neighbor, evicted the anti-Iran government, and replaced it with a government which promises to be at least mildly friendly to Tehran, and more likely a firm ally. But I digress). But that’s not the bottom line, which is that the group of swing voters who care about Iran is, absent military action, almost certainly tiny. So I’m not sure any of this makes any electoral difference.

I wanted to write about it anyway because Goldberg quoted Rick Santorum’s claim that “If Barack Obama has taught us anything, it’s that experience matters.” Helpful hint to Republicans: you really, really, really, are not going to be able to convince anyone that they should support you over Barack Obama on the basis of experience.

(OK, to be fair, it’s not entirely clear from the context whether Santorum is claiming that his experience makes him a better choice than Obama or whether he’s just claiming it makes him a better potential president than the other Republican candidates).

Getting back to something that’s closer to a serious point and away from the fun cheap shot…no, really, there’s no evidence that people vote on the basis of vague foreign policy threats. And purely based on my subjective reading of the various polls out there, I’d guess that a new military adventure anywhere, and especially in that part of the world, is a lousy selling point during WH 2012.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

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Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.