Clearly Republicans believe they have an opportunity to run hard against Democrats on national security issues. I doubt this is ground Democrats thought they’d have to be defending in the midterms, when the 2012 campaign was drawing to a close.
The National Republican Congressional Committee spotlights four ads hitting Democrats from several security angles, including military and counter-terrorism funding, border security, a little reminder about the V.A. crisis, and the inexplicable urge to keep the passports of ISIS recruits valid when they come home from training for the jihad in Syria:
A cascade of national-security anxiety began with the border crisis, and quickly escalated as ISIS became a big story. These have always been tough issues for Democrats, so they shouldn’t have been as surprised as they were when their poll numbers started sliding.
National security concerns are also a big part of the public’s growing dissatisfaction with bloated, under-performing Big Government. Security is one of the government’s core functions, but it doesn’t take much to send it careening down the list of official priorities. When budget cuts have to be made, the military gets the axe. The American people are buried under an avalanche of rules, regulations, and taxes, but immigration law is supposedly unenforceable, and Democrats won’t even talk about securing the border until they get paid off with a variety of political incentives. The distance between the Beltway and flyover country is rarely greater than when discussing these issues.
One reason for the disconnect is the tendency of the political class to assume that if something isn’t burning up the headlines, the public must not be all that concerned about it. National security is the most consistent example, with fiscal security a close second. (It’s always fun to watch all the big spenders in Washington turn into “deficit hawks” when the public is especially grouchy about runaway debt.) At this point, I think the public’s sincere concern about national security is obvious to all… but it’s pretty late in the game for Democrats to defuse it as a campaign issue.