Withdrawal No Longer Obama's Bread and Butter

No one knows how Barack Obama's trip to Iraq will go, what he will say about his Iraq policy afterwards, and how the public will receive it. But the current situation benefits John McCain.

Both men owe their nominations to the issue of war in Iraq — Obama for opposing it when Democrats around him supported it and McCain for pushing the surge, long before President Bush even proposed it. When they each joined the presidential race, opposition to the war was strong and Obama joined many Democrats and some Republicans in opposing the surge. Back then things seemed pretty clear. When chaos ruled Iraq in 2006 Americans began favoring withdrawal, but polls show now that Iraq has been stabilized by the surge there is less support for withdrawal, which Obama is calling for within 16 months of taking office.

Obama, of course, said he may "refine" his policy upon returning from his trip to the region, but when a chorus of “flip-flop” began he reiterated his call to end the war. Now McCain has cornered Obama on Iraq by embracing Obama's call for vigilance in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since they now agree on that, McCain can keep the focus on Iraq.

In my column this week, I noted that as withdrawal has lost support, by a wide margin — 72-48 — Americans see McCain as a stronger commander in chief, according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Obama better hope the economy decides it.

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WILL OBAMA, CAN OBAMA, SAY ANYTHING NEW ON IRAQ WHEN HE RETURNS? Ask A.B. returns Monday, July 21 — Please join my weekly video Q & A by sending your questions and comments to askab@thehill.com. Thank you.

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