The GOP National Security Debate of 2016 Begins


paul.christieThe contest for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016 will include a great debate about the party’s direction on foreign policy and national security, while the DNC candidates are on the same page. N.J. Governor Chris Christie just clashed with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul after saying that he and his libertarian trend are “dangerous.”

As I noted on July 16, the emphasis on national polls is misplaced. The important ones are in Iowa and New Hampshire and Paul leads in both, making him the frontrunner. Now, he also leads nationally with 16% according to a PPP poll. With his strengthening position Paul should have been expecting criticism from his rivals, and Christie has stepped up to throw the hardest punch.

Christie is framing himself as tougher on national security than Paul, saying that Paul’s “strain of libertarianism…is a very dangerous thought.” The specific area of disagreement is the National Security Agency’s controversial intelligence-gathering programs. Paul’s office replied by referring to him as “(Crist)ie,” using the disagreement to reinforce criticism that Christie is too moderate.

The disagreement helps Paul in the primaries, but helps Christie’s general election prospects. About 50% of Americans support the NSA programs and 44% disapprove. However, among Republicans, 50% are against them and 44% support them.

Senator Paul is also under attack from New York Rep. Peter King for his support for NSA leaker Edward Snowden. Paul may also be criticized for introducing legislation cutting off aid to Egypt in reaction to the overthrow of Egyptian President Morsi. He has always opposed aid to Egypt, but the timing will be seen by Egyptians as proof that the U.S. is on the side of the Muslim Brotherhood.

King says that Hillary Clinton would “destroy” Paul and Texas Senator Ted Cruz because of their “isolationist” positions. Christie, the most electable candidate at this point, has a slew of polls he can use to drive this point home.

Nationally, Clinton is ahead of Paul by 8%, but is only 1% ahead of Christie. Paul ties Biden, but Christie leads him by 6% (another poll has him with a 11% lead). In Ohio, Christie ties Clinton and defeats Biden by a whopping 18%. Paul loses to Clinton by 3% and his margin over Biden is only half of Christie’s. In Virginia, Christie is 5% behind Clinton, while Paul has a 14% gap to fill. Biden defeats Paul by 7%, but loses to Christie by 8%.

By attacking Paul, Christie has opened the door for his rivals to scrutinize his own national security record. The Clarion Project has repeatedly documented his associations with Islamists. Last November, it was revealed that Christie had four Islamists on his Muslim outreach committee, including the Hamas-linked Imam Qatanani, whom Christie defends against the Department of Homeland Security. Christie’s Senate appointment is friendly with these Islamists, something that only Canadian TV covered. Christie attacks his critics on this issue as bigots.”

The second tier of GOP candidates is Christie, Rep. Paul Ryan and former Governor Jeb Bush, each with 13%. Cruz also fits into this category with 12% and Senator Marco Rubio has 10%. As my last analysis showed, Rubio’s fall is a big development in the race. He is now in 5th place in Iowa, 4th place in New Hampshire and 6th nationally.

Rubio will try to regain some of his support by criticizing Paul on national security and foreign policy, but, like Christie, he has holes in his own record. He stood with Senator McCain when he blasted the members of Congress that pointed out the Islamist associations of Huma Abedin, the wife of New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, who recently received a donation from an Al-Jazeera lobbyist.

Rubio went beyond McCain’s scope of criticism, and dismissed the congressmen’s concerns about the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood altogether. The Abedin angle was only one part of the letters on the topic. Rubio said, “I can tell you that I don’t share the feelings that are in that letter.”

The offensive against both Paul and Christie (and possibly Rubio) on national security is going to come from the third tier candidates: Former Senator Rick Santorum, who registers 4% nationally, Rep. King and former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton. Two other possible candidates are Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker; Governor Bobby Jindal, who ties Santorum at 4%; and Governor Susana Martinez, who is at 2%, but she isn’t showing interest in running.

The Democratic lineup remains stable, with Clinton dominating and Biden taking her place if she chooses not to run. Senator Elizabeth Warren is in a distant third. Governor Deval Patrick, who has courted Islamists, but replaced an Islamist imam at an interfaith service following the Boston bombings, has ruled out a presidential run. Senator Amy Klobuchar is now putting her name out there with a trip to Iowa.

Of course, the race is in its very earliest stages and a lot will change, with Rubio’s dramatic decline serving as an example. However, this debate isn’t just about 2016. Unlike the Democrats, there is a visible fracturing of the party into two camps on national security and foreign affairs issues. The Republican Party is headed towards a fork in the road and only one path can be taken.

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  • tjke

    the best candidates would be Scott Walker, John Thune, Ted Cruz, Peter King, Louis Gohmert

    • mind-over-matter .

      RAND PAUL is leading nationally and in some primary states ,notably iowa and new Hampshire, stop leaving him out

  • TienBing

    Anyone who opposes a US role as international policeman, or designated nation builder will be vilified as isolationist. Anyone who opposes unlimited government domestic power is of course treasonous. Anyone who opposes Muslim influence in US government is a bigoted racist.

    That leaves us with Christie, Bush… (?)

    Get ready for President Hilary Clinton.

  • PETER

    Our search for security has caused us to abandon our love of liberty.

  • mind-over-matter .

    the neo-cons like king are mad because the grassroots have turned on them and are with the tea party and all their RINO games and tactics in the congress are being exposed….the big govt liberal moderate RINOs cant win anywhere but ny and nj….he knows better than to run for prez bcuz he would get embarrassed

  • PETER

    I find it odd that profiling violates some “right” when it is often the most effective and logical tool of law enforcement. (Or hiring, firing)

  • Erudite Mavin

    Rand Paul, the Peter Pan who believes better to have his so called version of liberty while not securing the country or defending it from Terrorist who lived in this country for over 2 years, made phone calls, e mails, radicalized by Anwar al Awlaki
    here and then killed 3,000 Americans one morning on 9/11. More people killed than at Pearl Harbor.
    In Paul’s mind, better to jump from the 80th floor to your death from fire at the WTC 9/11, at least you had your liberty because we did not drill into what the terrorist
    had exactly planned in those two years +
    G_d save us from these mindless libertarians.

    • ackman81

      Sorry but if we had been minding our own business for the last 100 years, imagine how many more Americans would be alive & how wealthy we would be without running around the world playi superpower. Its the constitution idiot, should be our clarion call. If not… We are all doomed.

      • Erudite Mavin

        Better yet, lets do away with the police, we can save money and lets do away with locks on the doors of homes. More savings.
        Since you believe everything from Nazis, Communists, and Radical Islam are not a threat and are perfect citizens because the big bad Americans defended our citizens and country from their attacks,
        it is all Phony. Where have I heard this before.
        Your type rationalize everything from Hitler to 9/11 and make it America’s fault.
        Remember, they don’t make pockets in shrouds

  • schermak

    This whole argument could be settled very easily….

    Sarah Palin for President in 2016. We need a Mama Grizzly in the White House. All the concerns of the author of this article, as well as the other bloggers here, would be resolved.

  • http://twitter.com/WinstonCN WinstonCN

    Rand Paul like his dad is a luantic