This is not a partisan or campaign blog, and is dedicated strictly to America’s national security issues. Nonetheless, given the importance of these issues (still unappreciated by Republicans) in this presidential race, it is important to ask Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, his running mate Paul Ryan, and other Republicans to emphasize them and show them how to talk about these issues and use them to win Florida and Ohio. This is important because without Florida AND Ohio, Mitt Romney doesn’t stand a ghost’s chance of winning this election (unless he wins Florida, Virginia, and NV, CO, or IA).
But first, do Floridians and Ohioans really care about nat-sec issues? And can most of them be convinced to support Republican policies instead of those of Obama on these issues? The answer to both questions is clearly “yes”. This is demonstrated by a recent poll of Floridians and Ohioans commissioned by SecureAmericaNow, which found, inter alia, that:
- 57.8% of Floridians and 51.9% of Ohioans oppose Obama’s defense budget and military force structure cuts.
- 64% of Floridians and 60% of Ohioans oppose Obama’s plan to cut America’s nuclear arsenal by up to 80%.
- 54.6% of Floridians and 51.4% of Ohioans believe Obama’s policy of talking to the Iranians has only given them more time to work on nuclear weapons.
- 61.2% of Floridians and 58.8% of Ohioans believe an Israeli strike on Iran would benefit “everyone in the world”. 53.7% of Floridians (but only 43.7% of Ohioans) believe the US should support an Israeli strike.
- 67.4% of Floridians and 66.1% of Ohioans believe Obama’s sanctions will fail to convince Iran to forego nuclear weapons.
- In both states, pluralities believe Obama has relied too much on international coalitions and been too soft to the Muslim world.
- 49.1% of Floridians (but only 44.9% of Ohioans) believe Obama’s nat-sec positions are weak.
- 65.2% of Floridians and 60.6% of Ohioans believe Obama has underestimated the economic and security threat posed by China to America.
- Large majorities of Floridians and Ohioans believe that the two most important nat-sec issues facing America are 1) preventing Iran from going nuclear and 2) preventing another terrorist attack. However, 40.7% of Floridians and 43.1% of Ohioans list “preserving US military superiority” among their top two nat-sec issues.
- 71.1% of Floridians and 61.6% of Ohioans are concerned about Obama’s promise of flexibility to Dmitry Medvedev.
- In total, while a slim majority (51.7%) of Ohioans approve of Obama’s handling of nat-sec issues, 44.3% of them do not, and neither do 50.4% of Floridians.
So on almost all of these issues, majorities (in some cases, very large majorities) of Floridians and Ohioans already agree with conservatives/Republicans. That’s a huge group of pro-strong-defense voters to tap into, and a lot of other Floridians and Ohioans are probably swayable to conservative positions if presented with facts.
The companies who conducted the poll, Caddell and Associates and McLaughlin and Associates, concluded in their analysis of it that “It seems very clear that in both Florida and Ohio national security issues could be decisive.”
This is a very important warning which the Romney campaign should heed. Romney has already convinced Americans that he’s better at handling economic issues. Yet, despite this demonstrated ability, and despite America’s difficult and worsening economic situation, he’s still behind Barack Obama in most polls, both nationally and in most swing states, including the most important ones: Florida and Ohio. FL and OH combined have 47 electoral college votes, which means a net swing of 94 EC votes for whoever wins them. That being the case, when economics alone have failed to win Romney the hearts of enough voters, it’s clear that national security issues need to be prioritized. The Washington cognoscenti – the “wise men”, “experts”, and pundits who claimed foreign and defense issues would not matter – were dead wrong, and I was right.
So, to Mitt Romney and his campaign staff: enough of fighting Obama solely on economic issues. You’ve already tried it and it has failed. Only national security issues can put Romney over the top.
So what exactly should Romney say, and on what issues? Here’s a partial list.
On Obama’s defense cuts, he needs to remind voters that not only has he scheduled 487 bn in cuts over the next decade (which, by itself, will weaken the military and hurt readiness, as explained in more detail here and in the following graph), he’s also directly responsible for sequestration. As Bob Woodward’s newest book proves, it was Obama who demanded that a deep sequestration of defense spending be included in 2011’s debt ceiling deal to blackmail Republicans and force them into choosing between deep defense cuts and massive tax hikes, knowing full well Republicans hate both. He also needs to explain how deep and disproportionate the sequester’s defense budget cuts would be and why they would be disastrous. He also needs to dispel widely-held myths about defense spending, such as the myth that it’s Republicans sacred cow.
Regarding Obama’s New START treaty and plan to cut America’s nuclear arsenal even more deeply, Romney needs to show how damaging to national security and how one-sided (in Russia’s favor) New START is, why further nuclear deterrent cuts would be disastrous, and why the whole idea of nuclear disarmament and arms control is fundamentally flawed and foolish. (Under New START, only the US is obliged to cut its nuclear arsenal; Russia is allowed to increase its, has done so, and continues to do so to; its stated goal is to build it up to New START limits, which it was below when the treaty was signed. I repeat: Russia is not cutting its nuclear arsenal at all.)
On Iran, Romney needs to underline that many years of talks with Iran by both the Bush and the Obama administration have failed utterly, that they’ve only given Iran more time to enrich uranium, and that the weak “sanctions” Obama has implemented, with loopholes so large you could drive a truck through them, have also utterly failed and striking Iran appears now to be the only solution.
On Cuba, Romney should pledge to tighten anti-Castro sanctions, which Obama has loosened, and refuse to deal or meet with the Cuban regime until it frees all political prisoners and holds free and fair elections.
On China, Romney needs to point out that:
- China is cheating on trade on such a scale that America’s huge trade deficit with that country has cost America at least 2.7 mn jobs in the last decade.
- The Chinese military is not obsolete, has already caught up with America in most categories of capabilities and weapons, and is developing two 5th generation stealthy fighters while Obama has killed the F-22 and cut back on purchases of the F-35. Further defense cuts will make the US military inferior to the PLA.
- China’s military is rapidly modernizing, does not intend to stop modernizing, and its vast military buildup has long ago exceeded legitimate self-defense requirements.
- China’s military spending is far higher than often reported or widely believed. According to the latest DOD report on the PLA, its annual budget, contrary to China’s and its sympathizers’ claims, is at least $160 bn and up to $250 bn. And if you factor purchasing power parity differences, that number must be multiplied by at least 3, giving you a budget of $480-$750 bn.
- China considers America its enemy, and its leaders, military and civilian, are implacably hostile to the US, especially its hawkish generals like Xu Caihou.
- Chinese military leaders believe that “the US is not strong enough to help Japan.” When America’s enemies believe the US is not strong enough to help its allies, war and death are guaranteed. The ONLY thing that can deter them is a strong, unrivalled US military. But America cannot have such a military if currently scheduled cuts, including sequestration, proceed.
On Israel, Romney needs to remind voters how contemptously Obama has treated Benjamin Netanyahu and that the Obama Admin, instead of trying to stop the Iranian nuclear program, is busy trying to dissuade and prevent Israel from stopping that program; and that as President, Obama has never visited Israel. Romney should also pledge to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Romney and his staffers need to read and heed the above advice now. Just 40 days remain before the election.