Who says foreign policy has not had a major impact on the GOP presidential race?
A new CNN poll shows that, after surging into first place, Herman Cain has dropped back into third with 17 percent of the vote. This is in part because of his gross mishandling of sexual harassment allegations. But Cain’s fall in the polls is also the result of a series of foreign policy gaffes over recent weeks that have led voters to question whether he is ready to be commander in chief.
• First came his interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, in which he said that “I could see myself” negotiating the release of all the al Qaeda terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for a captured American.
• Then, in an interview with PBS’s Judy Woodruff, he suggested that China had “indicated that they’re trying to develop nuclear capability” when China in fact tested its first nuclear weapon in the 1960s.
Watch Cain Confident He Can Win Nomination, Says Harassment Claims Are ‘Baseless’ on PBS. See more from PBS NEWSHOUR.
• Then came his painful “oops” moment when he struggled to answer a question about Libya in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel editorial board, and appeared uncertain if the United States had supported the rebellion or not.
• After that, one would think he would have boned up on Libya policy. But a few days later, he suggested in an interview that elements of the Taliban are involved in the new Libyan government.
The lesson of this experience is clear: Voters are understandably focused on jobs and the economy, and foreign policy may not decide the 2012 election. But Americans still consider it a prerequisite for the job that presidential candidates at the very least be conversant in the major national security issues of the day—and to ideally have thought deeply about them.
Another reason why tonight’s AEI/Heritage/CNN debate is so important.