Will Foreign Policy Be the Biggest Drag for Democrats This Year?

It was once said, during the time when Maine’s governor’s race was conducted almost two  months earlier than the November presidential race, that “as Maine goes, so goes the nation.” Will that be the case this year with North Carolina?

There is news this week that Democrats will invest a stunning  $9.1 million to back first-term incumbent Senator Kay Hagan in  North Carolina. Hagan is being challenged by Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis. This occurs just after the latest Washington Post Election Lab survey rates Hagan’s chances of re-election at 99%. Clearly, national Democrats don’t see the North Carolina race as in the bag.  The Washington Post’s model favors Republicans to pick up seats in South Dakota, West Virginia, Montana, Iowa, Arkansas, Alaska, and Louisiana -- enough to win a majority with 52 Senate seats. Pretty much all election analysts consider the first three seats in this list as safe for Republicans, and the other four as competitive. If analysts are greatly underestimating GOP chances in  North Carolina, then maybe the tides are rolling in for the Republicans this year.

In fact, Thom Tillis had led in the last three polls in North Carolina.  This, more than anything, explains the new infusion of cash and the big new ad buy by Democrats. The money will  be used at the start for extremely harsh attack ads directed at Tillis and the policies of state government. The bet is that North Carolinians may be as or more unhappy with their state government  than they are with Barack Obama and Harry Reid.

Hagan comes off as something of an irrelevance in the whole matter, though the ads are designed to change the subject from her heavily criticized vote for Obamacare, which, given its filibuster-proof passage with 60 votes, required every Democratic senator to support it. Republicans will continue to aim their fire at Obama, Obamacare, and, given recent national polls, the president’s foreign policy record. Democrats will, as they have throughout the last decade, try to scare voters into thinking that Republicans are mean to women, children, African Americans, Hispanics and any other group they can persuade to see themselves as victims..

The intrusion of foreign policy into the 2014 midterms is clearly something that was unanticipated by the administration. When Obama ran for re-election in 2012, the Benghazi attack on September 11th threatened to unravel a clearly designed narrative that America had withdrawn its forces abroad, ending a near decade of death and heavy spending on military matters, and killed Osama bin Laden, addressing the major remaining terror threat from al-Qaeda. So now it was time to turn inward to address our domestic challenges. The administration’s lies and spin -- that the Benghazi deaths were caused by a reaction by foreign mobs to attacks on Islam in some unseen film by an unknown filmmaker -- were preposterous. But they were gobbled up as tasty snacks by many in the major media, some of whom (e.g., Candy Crowley of CNN) might as well have been on the administration’s payroll.

The last 18 months have put to rest any illusions that we have reached “the end of history” or that  America can safely retreat, rely on multilateralism,  significantly reduce the size of the military, and rely on Obama’s new grand strategy of "don’t do anything stupid” along with its corollary, “no boots on the ground, and especially not in Iraq."

Now, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has laid down her marker for the general election in 2016, ignoring any risk that her tougher line on foreign policy will antagonize the left in the Democratic Party (far stronger now than in 2000) and deny her the nomination one more time. In an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic, Clinton argues that there is no grand strategy coming out of the White House, and a lot of caution, which could signal to both friends and foes an absence of resolve.