Votes on Syria could have huge ramifications on 2016 contenders

The vote on whether to attack Syria is shaping up to be a crucial decision for possible 2016 presidential hopefuls.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — the 2016 Democratic front-runner, were she to announce her candidacy — broke her silence on Tuesday, coming out in support of a Syria authorization measure.

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“Secretary Clinton supports the president’s effort to enlist the Congress in pursuing a strong and targeted response to the Assad regime’s horrific use of chemical weapons,” a Clinton aide said in a statement.

Clinton arguably lost the 2008 Democratic presidential primary to then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) because of her vote in favor of the Iraq War.

Now, President Obama is battling comparisons between Syria and Iraq as he tries to muscle a Syria resolution though Congress.

Former DNC Chair Howard Dean, an outspoken critic of the Iraq War who visited Iowa this summer, did not comment for this article. He recently told BuzzFeed that he is unsure of what he would do if he were in the Oval Office.

Republicans eyeing a White House bid have taken sharply different approaches on Syria, with a few remaining mum.

Tea Party Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have been outspoken.

Cruz has said “the mission proposed by the president is not in furtherance the vital national security interests of the United States,” while Paul has said that he doesn’t see “American interests involved on either side of this Syrian war.”

Sen. Marco Rubio has split with Cruz and Paul.

“What happens in Syria is of vital national interest to the United States and to our national security,” the Florida Republican said at Tuesday’s hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “What we’re seeing here now is proof and an example that when America ignores these problems, these problems don’t ignore us; that we can ignore them but eventually they grow, and they come to visit us at our doorstep.”

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), another possible 2016 candidate for president, appears to oppose a strike, saying recently that “it sounds as though the president is determined to kill some Syrians to send the message to Assad to stop killing Syrians.”

Former 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, a long-shot potential 2016 contender, also weighed in.

“So we’re bombing Syria because Syria is bombing Syria? And I’m the idiot?” she wrote on her Facebook page.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has publicly sparred with Paul this year, has declined to weigh in directly on Syria. But he gave the president the benefit of the doubt when asked last week.

“This is the responsibility of the president of the United States, and we have one president at a time,” Christie said. “I didn’t vote for him either time, but we got one president at a time and the fact is that I think it’s inappropriate for me as a governor to be sitting here and to be speaking about that kind of thing.”

Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), who is mulling a 2016 run, has said Obama should never have asked for congressional approval.

Other potential candidates have been noncommittal.

“The president has some work to do to recover from his grave missteps in Syria,” House Budget Committee Chairman and 2012 vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement. “He needs to clearly demonstrate that the use of military force would strengthen America’s security.”

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) has gone back and forth in his public comments despite authoring sanctions against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime a decade ago.

“When the United States says, ‘This guy should go,’ then the expectation is that the United States will stand behind limited and reasonable efforts to do so,” Santorum said last year.

Last week, he told Patriot Voices Radio that “the idea that we need to be punishing Assad and doing things to tip the balance in favor of al Qaeda, who are running the rebel forces, to me is a very questionable tactic of itself.”

“I completely understand senators, governors who think that they’re going to be great presidents taking a position on Syria,” said Marvin Kalb, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution and a former reporter with five decades of experience covering the Middle East. “Those people, like Obama in 2002 on Iraq ... who make a judgment that is then supported by history, they look good.”

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