THE WAR IN Iraq is increasingly unpopular: A May ABC News/Washington Post poll found 62 percent of Americans saying it wasn't worth fighting. Nor is the American public thrilled about the prospect of a fresh war with Iran, however much it might break the monotony on Fox. Polled support for military action against Iran was about 13 percent in an April Opinion Research/CNN poll, and a Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll the same month found 54 percent of Americans don't trust President Bush to make the right decision when it comes to managing the mullahs.
This dissatisfaction over foreign policy, past, present, and future, is driving a general dissatisfaction with Bush and his party, with 69 percent of Americans saying the country is off track and 56 percent saying they'd prefer the Democrats to be running Congress. Since voters' next chance to steer the ship of state is this November, surely it's conventional wisdom that the party that stands for the war will be tossed out on its ear.
But it's not. Many professional poll watchers and experts on public opinion and war are confident that the public's foreign policy anxieties are apt to have a surprisingly small effect on the results in this year's congressional and Senate races. A general dissatisfaction with Bush and the Republicans, of which dissatisfaction with the war is a part, might lead to major Republican losses. But it might not. Whether those awful GOP poll numbers will result in even the loss of the 15 net seats the Democrats will need to take over the House is still hotly debated among pollwatching professionals.
A nonprofessional might imagine that 69 percent dissatisfaction should lead to a rout for the party controlling both houses and the presidency. But it isn't always so: In 1984, for example, Democrats were beating Republicans by 15 points in a September survey of general support, but ended up losing 16 House seats in November.
Nor do political entrepreneurs seem to be leaping on the war issue in massive numbers. There are some angry Democratic primary challengers making incumbent support of the war, or lack of sufficient energy in fighting it, their big issue--most prominent among them the Daily Kos-approved Ned Lamont, who is aiming to take down former vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), the Republican's Democrat, in the contest for his Senate seat. But the Democrats' power centers, including even anti-war stalwart Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, are...