There’s a bit of debate about why McCain is going on so much about Iraq. I think both explanations have some truth towards them. It’s the only issue that he seems to be really interested in, with pork being the notable exception, but also he probably seems temperamentally suited to butt his head up against a brick wall because he cares about this issue. I can see him saying, “damn the stubbornness of the voters, if I just keep talking about Iraq, they’ll get the message.”
I can also see this strategy working. An unpredictable aspect of the debate over Iraq is the circumstances on the ground, or how they’re perceived in the United States. And right now, there’s a lot of potential for McCain, because on the surface, things are going well in Iraq right now. American casualties are lower than they’ve been in years, and I think that Iraqi casualties have been reduced as well (I’m less clear on that). This is obviously good news.
The argument then becomes one over whether those reductions in casualties can be sustained, or whether deeper problems are just being temporarily masked by a US policy focused on short-term security. I still think it’s the latter, though I’m less sure than I was six months ago. If the relative quiet persists until November, the question becomes which scenario voters believe, and whether they have any patience for staying in Iraq.
So by taking this strategy, I think McCain has a real chance, even an outside one, of winning on the Iraq issue. It is probably his best chance, in fact.