President Obama appears to be on pace to find enough votes to save the Iran nuclear deal, but longtime Democratic pollster and strategist Pat Caddell says the party is at risk electoral disaster by propping up a deal the public hates and may well pave the way to a nuclear-armed Iran.
“If the question is that they have voted for something that the American people think is dire and ends up having dire consequences because the majority will of the Congress and the vast majority will of the country’s been ignored, I fear the Democrats will live with this issue of ‘they lost the Middle East.’ And that will be painful election after election,” said Caddell.
Caddell has been down this road before. He helped Jimmy Carter win the White House in 1976 but watched helplessly as the Iranian hostage crisis buried Carter in 1980.
“We know in 1979-80 the Iran hostage situation, and the Democratic Party’s inability to solve that satisfactorily, hurt the Democratic Party. We are now dealing with a situation where overwhelming majorities of Americans oppose this agreement that has been engineered by Secretary of State (John) Kerry and the president,” said Caddell.
The Secure America Now poll, for which Caddell serves as a principal, shows 65 percent of Americans oppose the deal when they learn some of the critical details. Other polls show lower opposition numbers but every virtually survey finds the public wanting to reject the deal. Caddell says huge swaths of Democrats want the deal to die as well.
“Large majorities of Democrats look at a deal in which the side agreements on inspections, even without the knowledge Iran would be self-testing its violations, the questions about handing over $100-150 billion almost immediately for their nefarious activities; all of these things which the public opposes in 75-80 percent numbers,” said Caddell.
He says the numbers would be even more lopsided if Obama and Kerry were honest about the terms of the deal.
“The American electorate has made the decision by well over two-to-one that the president and John Kerry are not being honest with the facts. They’re only telling the American people what they think might convince them. This is a real departure. Either the Democratic Party is the party of democracy or not. I think senators are going to find themselves not only in trouble in general elections, I think they’ll have troubles in primaries,” said Caddell, who firmly believes voters will remember their elected officials defying the vast majority of their constituents on a critical issue.
“You cannot go fly in the teeth of what is now overwhelming opposition, registering in almost every survey of well over 60 percent of the people, show utter contempt for the constitutional processes by going to the UN first and then think it’s not going to have an impact,” he said.
As of Wednesday, the resolution to reject the Iran deal appeared to be on course for passage in the House and majority support in the Senate. However, it’s looking less likely that opponents will find the two-thirds majority needed to override a promised Obama veto. In fact, only two Senate Democrats are publicly splitting with the president thus far. Opponents will need at least four more Democrats just to fend off a filibuster.
A successful filibuster would mean Obama never has to veto the bill, but Caddell thinks enough ‘no’ votes will materialize.
“I don’t think the filibuster’s going to succeed. I think the Democrats who are out, many of them are really against this deal,” he said, noting the debate has been overshadowed in the media by the political success of Donald Trump and the legal woes of Hillary Clinton.
“As it becomes front and center as a national security issue and as a question of America’s long-term security, I think that the thing will pass,” said Caddell. “I do not understand at this point how Democratic senators and congressmen can say they are going to vote for something which the vast majority of Americans oppose, including a goodly percentage of their party.”
In addition to the danger of being portrayed as soft on national security for generations to come, Caddell says voters are turned off by politicians who simply march to the White House beat.
“The American people see a Democratic Party, which puts what the president wants over the interests of the nation,” he said.
Caddell says that’s an especially bad policy for Democrats to follow with this president.
“President Obama’s handling of national security is very poorly received, and in reality, frankly has been a frightening disaster, whether it’s Russia to the Middle East to Iran to ISIS or whatever,” said Caddell.
“This Democratic Party need to measure whether they are going to be viewed as a party that cannot be trusted with national security. If so, that is something that will tip the political balance of this country,” he added.
But Caddell was not done slammimg Obama, saying the current occupant of the Oval Office is besmirching a party that once embraced a robust approach to national security.
“Barack Obama has taken this party and jerked it so far away from its roots as being a party that speaks for the people,” said Caddell.
He says Democrats are sprinting to the political fringe in the Obama era in ways that would have never happened before.
“Just look at the parties now that are talking about getting rid of the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners that traditionally for 100 years honored the founders of the Democratic Party because they’re no longer in style for these people,” said Caddell.
“This attempt to drag the Democratic Party into becoming, instead of the voice of the common people, the voice of entitled elites, is unacceptable to me and many Democrats,” he concluded.