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Campaign 2008

The Candidates and the World

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The ‘Soft Power’ of Trade

by Robert McMahon, Editor

MINNEAPOLIS — Energy is shaping up as one of the main foreign policy wedge issues between the Republican and Democratic candidates. Trade could be another. Three top aides to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the presumptive Republican nominee, emphasized the importance of a robust free trade policy in a panel discussion today at the Hubert Humphrey Institute here on foreign policy priorities for the next president.

Read more » and Foreign Affairs at the DNC

by campaign2008

DENVER– and Foreign Affairs are stationed in Media Pavilion 5 just outside the Pepsi Center during the duration of the Democratic National Convention. Their media booth is located alongside mainstream and local media outlets. staff writers are conducting interviews of delegates, congressional representatives, and members of the media blog posts and podcasts.

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Foreign Policy and ‘Swing States’

by Michael Moran

DENVER — One of the (few) nice things about being housed 15 miles from the site of the actual convention – yes, hotel rooms downtown were tough to come by even for CFR – is the serendipitous conversations you find yourself having in the Marriott breakfast nook, in the taxi queue. In this case, as I stepped into my rental car to head for the Pepsi Center, a nattily dressed fellow tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Any chance I can bum a ride?” He turned out to be Peter A. Brown, chief pollster for the respected Quinnipiac University Poll, and I made sure he paid for his 20-minute ride downtown by peppering him about the relative position of foreign policy issues in the collective mind of the electorate. Brown is known in his trade as a man who knows as much as anyone about the attitudes of the electorate in a series of key “swing” states. This time around, he has focused much of his attention on Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, three states with a history of splitting their votes between Republicans and Democrats and deciding elections. Interestingly, in this cycle, he says, international issues – particularly if “free trade” and “immigration” can be included–are playing relatively high in all three. Generally, all three include large numbers of centrist voters often characterized as “Reagan Democrats,” people Brown sees as naturally attracted to Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) maverick reputation, but also comfortable with the economic populism espoused at times by Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D-NY) campaign, and with less fervor to date, by Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-IL). “Going protectionist could present great opportunities to Obama,” Brown says. Not only will it shore up his support among Hillary Clinton voters who might be giving McCain a hard look; It also puts the McCain camp in a difficult position in a bad economy when the emotional arguments against free trade are finding traction in the middle and working classes.On the other hand, Brown sees the return of Russian assertiveness in the Caucasus as an issue which “has done a great favor for McCain.” The thinking among political professionals, he says, is that instability of any kind generally will favor the Arizona Republican, with his long record on national security issues. “The exception in Iraq, where relative calm makes it a more difficult issue for the Democrats to highlight,” he says. “But don’t get me wrong, the Iraq war, even with the recent changes there, remains very unpopular.”

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Where the World Plays in Denver

by Michael Moran

DENVER — From the CFR/Foreign Affairs booth here* at the Democratic National Convention, sandwiched between the workspaces of TIME, the Christian Science Monitor and the huge space shared by the Washington Post and Slate, foreign policy issues appear not to rank very highly so far on the radar of the working press. Day One’s focus on “The Family,” where Michelle Obama and Nancy Pelosi took center stage, barely touched on international issues. Democrats divided their convention into themes, and “National Security” doesn’t get its spot in the sun until Wednesday. Still, with American troops embroiled in two major conflicts, the global economy flagging due to high energy prices and the damage done by America’s credit markets, several foreign journalists have remarked to me that they are shocked that global issues have not been more prominently on display. “We thought Iraq would be front-and-center in all discussions here,” says Max Deveson of the BBC. “So far, it’s about the show, not the substance.” Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE), the Senate Foreign Relations committee chairman whose selection as Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-IL) running mate led to a flurry of foreign policy analysis over the weekend, will speak Wednesday. A question on many minds here: Does the “Gelb-Biden” plan, the proposal for a more federalized Iraqi government structure advocated by the senator and CFR President Emeritus Leslie H. Gelb since 2006, now become part of the Obama platform? Biden’s foreign policy positions are well-known otherwise and tracked in detail by It’s hardly controversial to note at this point that political conventions in modern times really are more style than substance, and so carefully channeling the “message” of each party into pre-planned theme days makes some sense. Still, foreign policy is not totally absent. John Irbittsen of the Toronto’s Globe and Mail, one of the sharper foreign observers of U.S. politics, writes that among Obama’s tasks here is putting forth a detailed economic program, perhaps one which puts Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on the spot for his advocacy of free trade, and capitalizes on public unease over everything from the Iraq war to high energy prices.

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