Foreign policy could move to the forefront of the presidential election over Iran, a shift that strategists and New Hampshire voters say could benefit former Vice President Joe Biden in the Democratic primary — but could push independents to President Trump in the general.
Biden and his team are known to tout his foreign policy bona fides — drawing on his decades in the U.S. Senate, his time as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and his experience under President Obama to make the case he can best lead America on the world stage. And he’s polled higher than the rest of the field in surveys asking Democratic-leaning voters who could best handle foreign policy.
With Iran vowing “harsh retaliation” over the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of the country’s elite Quds Force blamed for the deaths of hundreds of Americans, independent voter Alain Ades of New Castle, N.H., said he would turn to Biden.
“I would want somebody who can call up every leader in every country and know them by their first name. There’s only one guy, and that’s Biden,” Ades said. “If he got control of things, the whole world would feel a little bit more at ease.”
Democratic strategist Scott Ferson said a “robust response by Iran” would bring foreign policy to the forefront of the presidential primary — and could push Democratic-leaning voters toward the candidate with the most foreign policy experience.
“On the Democratic side, that’s Joe Biden, easily,” Ferson said. “Biden’s got the best counter to Donald Trump on approach and temperament on foreign policy.”
But a focus on foreign policy could also put the spotlight on Biden’s record. Biden has already faced criticism from Democratic rivals Sanders and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a veteran, over his 2002 vote to invade Iraq, which Sanders opposed.
Still, Democratic strategist Neil Oxman said the situation could “help somebody more mature and more seasoned in foreign policy, like Biden,” or former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Some New Hampshire voters surveyed by the Herald remained split down party lines. Londonderry, N.H., Democrat Sangita Patel said, “Trump starting a war just motivates us more to vote for a Democrat who can stop him.”
Trump supporter Nancy Kindler of Epping, N.H., said, “We need somebody that is willing to stand up to the tyrants and the terrorists and the killers of the world, and finally we have a president that does it.”
Hampstead, N.H., independent Karl Hubner called eliminating Soleimani “a good thing.”
A right-leaning moderate, Hubner wondered if the prospect of war would make voters “less apt to have a change in power in the fall.”
“I think that right-leaning moderates don’t like Trump,” he said. “But under the right circumstances they might feel content to let him go another four years, especially if he seems strong on national defense.”