President Barack Obama is trying hard to win veterans, but it looks like they’d prefer a new commander in chief.
The Obama campaign had been hoping that veterans and their families — especially among the post-Sept. 11 generation that served in Iraq and Afghanistan — would be part of their path to victory: They’re a high turn-out demographic and concentrated in battleground states, with nearly 1 million each in North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia, and 1.6 million in Florida.
“It’s no contest,” said Maurice Tamman, a Reuters data news editor who has polled on veterans and the presidential campaign.
Obama’s campaign has been trying to improve on a historical Democratic disadvantage on national security and among veterans by touting the killing of Osama bin Laden, ending Iraq combat operations and winding down the war in Afghanistan. They’ve also been talking up the administration’s attention to veterans’ benefits and efforts spearheaded by first lady Michelle Obama, hoping to appeal not just to the troops but to the spouses and other military family members who have coped with long separations and multiple deployments.
Instead, even as Obama has been gaining in the overall polls, several NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls conducted from Sept. 9-11 had Romney well ahead of Obama among veterans in Florida, Ohio and Virginia. And in Colorado, a poll released Sept. 16 by SurveyUSA and the Denver Post found both veterans and military families supporting Romney over Obama 53 percent to 39 percent in a survey that included third-party candidates.
Back in May, Obama had the lead among Afghanistan and Iraq veterans. But a Reuters/Ipsos poll from September says that’s evaporated, with Romney now up 48 percent to 34 percent.
Obama campaign aides said the slip in the polls needs to be considered alongside recent surveys showing the president ahead of Romney on questions regarding foreign policy, leadership and keeping the country safe from terrorist attacks. In the campaign’s final weeks, Obama will try to close the gap among veterans by pressing Romney over several foreign policy stumbles as well as a lack of specifics on his plans for troops.
Ryan Williams, a Romney campaign spokesman, said the Republican’s lead among veterans comes from their resistance to the looming potential defense cuts under the budget sequester, problems with Obama’s foreign policy positions and the backdrop of the stagnant economy that’s left the post-Sept. 11 generation of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with a difficult time finding work when they return home.