2016 GOP Race Focusing on National Security

Analysis: Iran and ISIS have become the key issues in the GOP primary race – a change that favors Rubio and Cruz.

Arutz Sheva staff ,

Senator Marco Rubio
Senator Marco Rubio

The particularly vicious brand of Islamist terrorism practiced by ISIS, and President Barack Obama’s highly contested nuclear deal with Iran, are pushing national security issues to the forefront of the GOP primary debate as the 2016 elections draw nearer, writes Alexander Bolton in The Hill.

The new dynamic could help Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who sat on the Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees, respectively, and harm Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who proposed sharp defense cuts when he first came to the Senate and is not a fan of foreign military interventions.

The Hill quotes Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) as saying: “There’s such a thing as a seminal moment, and that was the beheadings.

“We saw immediate shift, and then you saw the other atrocities that took place. But the beheadings, really, when it went viral, that’s really when opinions started changing, especially among Republican primary voters,” he said.

A nationwide March NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 79 percent of Republican primary voters favor a candidate who supports sending combat troops to Iraq to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

A February NBC News/Maris poll of Iowa residents found “military action against ISIS” as the third-most important issue, ranking behind only job creation and the deficit.

“We saw the change starting to occur right after the beheadings, the first beheadings,” said Whit Ayres, a GOP pollster who does work for Rubio. “In the Senate battleground states in 2014, by October the top three issues in those races were the economy, ObamaCare and ISIS and national security.”

“It’s a remarkable jump compared to a year earlier,” he added.

Brian Darling, a former senior aid to Paul, said while voters may endorse defeating ISIS in polls, that doesn’t mean they want to sacrifice US troops and spend American funds to do it.

“Do we really think the American people are excited about putting ground troops in Iraq? They want to defeat ISIS, no question, but putting American soldiers in harm’s way?” he said. “People who are saying that American primary voters want another war are misguided and don’t accurately reflect where Republican voters and American voters are at this point.”