March 15, 2015

NOTE THAT THIS IS HAPPENING DESPITE THE BEST EFFORTS OF THE NARRATIVE POLICE:

Events overseas are upending long-settled expectations about the 2016 presidential campaign.

In the two years after Barack Obama’s re-election, both political parties assumed that the 2016 election would hinge almost exclusively on the economy. As unemployment gradually subsided as a public issue, other economic concerns—such as stagnant wages, low labor-force-participation rates and declining social mobility—came to the fore. Potential presidential candidates in both parties jostled for field position as champions of opportunity for the middle class.

These issues will still be pivotal next year. But the Islamic State militants’ rise, the Russian threat to the peace of Europe and the Iranian challenge to stability in the Middle East have sparked increasing public worries about America’s security. Defense and foreign policy will not be as dominant in 2016 as they were in 2004, but they will be far more important than in 2008 and 2012.

The accumulating evidence from high-quality public-opinion research is hard to ignore. A Quinnipiac University survey released March 4 found that terrorism now trails only the economy as a top public priority: 67% of the American people regard Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, as a “major threat” to U.S. security. The public is not satisfied with the Obama administration’s response to this threat. Only 39% approve of the president’s handling of terrorism (down from 52% a year ago), while 54% disapprove. When it comes to ISIS, the public’s view is even more negative, with only 35% approving.

These sentiments translate into support for much more assertive policies.

People turned on Bush in 2008 not because they thought the war on terror was a failure, but because they thought he’d won.

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