Foreign policy, specifically the fight against the Islamic State and how to manage the Iranian nuclear issue, will play a prominent role in the 2016 presidential campaign, writes The Wall Street Journal's
Washington bureau chief, Gerald Seib.
Candidates will have to speak to the issues that in their assessment the country is most concerned about. That means national security is unlikely to displace domestic affairs on the campaign trail. Middle-class economic stagnation, and the sense that many families are not seeing their own wages improve even as the macro-economy gets better, will still get top billing, according to Seib.
At the same time, national security issues have been moved to the front burner. The challenge of how to overcome the Islamic State and whether an agreement with Iran is the best way of curbing its nuclear ambitions will probably play a prominent role in the campaign. "If negotiations collapse, what then?" is a question 2016 presidential contenders may have to address, writes Seib.
President Barack Obama's top campaign strategist, David Axelrod, told Seib that "the race will be about security writ large." Economic security at home will be the most important issue. National security will move up and down in relative importance depending on what happens in the news.
Republican pollster Whit Ayres said "both domestic policy and a reaction to a perceived leading from behind overseas will be prominent," according to Seib.
Presumptive Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton will have the advantage of being acquainted with foreign policy problems. Her challenge will be to differentiate her positions from Obama's, perhaps by sounding tougher, without seeming to be unfaithful, he writes.
The problem for Republicans is that, except for "extreme long-shot" South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, most of the contenders have limited foreign policy expertise. In this respect, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are at a decided disadvantage.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, the only formally declared candidate, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio can point to having debated foreign policy issues in Congress.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush enjoys access to the "national-security brain trust his father and brother assembled as president" but also the "baggage" of George W. Bush's handling of the war against terror, according to Seib.
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