The nomination contests in the Democratic and Republican parties kicked off this week with the Iowa caucuses, and will be closely followed by the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday. It’s way too early to say who the parties’ nominees will be, but it’s not too early to say what voters in November will be looking for, no matter who the nominees are: change and plenty of it.
According to a late December Los Angeles Times poll, just 22 percent of voters in Iowa and 21 percent of voters in New Hampshire think the country is going in the right direction, compared to 69 percent and 72 percent respectively who think we’re on the wrong track.
The desire for change is particularly sharp on Iraq—the issue that voters in both states put at the top of their priority list for presidential candidates to address. Voters in Iowa (57 percent to 35 percent) and New Hampshire (65 percent to 28 percent) overwhelmingly say that the situation in Iraq was not worth going to war over.
Voters in Iowa and New Hampshire are also overwhelmingly convinced that U.S. troops should begin coming home from Iraq in the next year. In Iowa, 66 percent want U.S. troops either withdrawn immediately (20 percent) or within a year (40 percent). And the numbers are similar in New Hampshire; 68 percent want U.S. troops either home immediately (22 percent) or within a year (46 percent).
These numbers from Iowa and New Hampshire are consistent with those from national polls, which also show the overwhelming desire for change. As just one example, in an early November NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 74 percent of respondents said they think the next president should take a different approach than Bush, compared to just 20 percent who said the next president’s approach should be similar.
So when the smoke clears and the dust settles from this year’s nomination battles, the parties’ nominees will have to convince a change-oriented electorate that they can, in fact, take America in a new direction—a new direction that will begin with changing Bush’s misguided Iraq policy. The candidate who can do that will no doubt be the victor in November.
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