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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

Is the quasi-endorsement of Barack Obama’s withdraw timetable by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki a transformative event in the campaign? Marc Ambinder — and his Republican source — certianly seem to think so.

I tend to think the impact will be felt too, but perhaps somewhat indirectly. Foreign policy is the one area where the American public does not have a great deal of patience for nuance and detail — even a detail as important as this one. At a soundbyte level, the Republican counter-spin “see, the surge worked!” — is liable to be at least somewhat effective.

This does, however, put McCain on the defensive on foreign policy, which is especially problematic as this was one of the few issues where he had the opportunity to play offense. Getting the boys home — which seemed like a slam-dunk winner for the Democrats six months ago — might not have been one by November. Polling in key swing states had begun to show slight majorities opposed to a specific withdraw timetable, and unless the Republicans do an exceptionally good job of winning the spin war, this will change all of that.

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