How big will the military vote be in 2008?
Among the great challenges facing all candidates in 2008 will be when the troops start asking, "You said you supported 'the troops' but in the same breath said you despised every conviction we stood for? You let us go into battle with a hero's sendoff, then spat on us for going? Now, you want me to vote for you?"
When a man or woman presents their lives in service to the call of their country, they know what grace results may be ahead of them. True conviction means they are not relying on the encouragement of others, or are dismayed by the disdain of others. They march because they know what are doing is right.
The candidate which understands the mindset of this strength of character will be the one who attains the soldier's vote.
Lip service will do no one any good. That was John Kerry's difficulty. One minute he was for the men, the next he was against them, the next he was one of them, and the next those men to him were lepers. Whatever he truly believed no one knew but his god and maybe his wife. Certainly not his tired publicity people.
When something is spun both ways, it is easy to establish position -- just look where it starts because that's where it will finish.
John McCain gets the troops' mindset. They know he is a hero. John Kerry may have been a hero, but forgot the mindset. Who knows how this happens, but it comes back to conviction. Men with conviction only spin one way. They never spin in reverse. Whether that one way is agreeable depends on your point of view, but it is worth respect.
Who else gets the mindset of a soldier? I do not know. This will bubble out as we go along. I do not think only candidates who are vets will understand this, or that McCain has the lock on what conviction is.
Hillary Clinton, who is trying to dance around the fact the she voted for sending troops into Iraq, is stuck. First, any gender issues -- the stereotypes -- may be present. Her personality does not communicate, "I'm a blue-collar, hardworking gal who knows the mind of the average soldier." Beyond that, though, as she appeals to otherwise center and left of center voters, she must play into their antiwar, antisoldier perspective. Barack Obama already has, and will come across more convincingly, thanks to the fact he never voted them into Iraq. He does not support the soldiers, and in general, does not even respect them, but with Hillary, it salvageable if she wants their vote.