November 4, 2014

Lame Duck? Shots Fired.

By Bruce Stokes, Director of Economic Attitudes, Pew Research Center

Special to Foreign Policy

Americans head to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 4, with major international issues — the U.S. effort to counter Islamic State (IS) extremism, how to deal with Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian situation, Russia, and President Barack Obama’s general handling of foreign policy — likely to play a role in their vote.

Mid-term congressional elections often focus primarily on domestic concerns. But in the run up to this ballot, world affairs have intruded on the public consciousness, which heretofore had been increasingly inward-looking. This year, the American public is quite concerned about a number of international challenges. And by a 43 percent to 37 percent margin, they believe that the GOP would do a better job handling foreign affairs than the Democrats, according to a Pew Research Center poll.

Lame duck presidents often tend to focus a great deal of their energies on foreign policy in the last two years of their tenure, in part because the Constitution gives the White House ultimate authority over foreign policy — thus allowing greater freedom of action when confronted with recalcitrant opposition (or lacking the imperatives of running for re-election). But polls suggest that if the Republicans gain a majority in the Senate and retain control of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, a widely anticipated outcome, the GOP may be under pressure from its base to chart a different and more aggressive course on U.S. foreign policy than that pursued by the Obama White House.

Read more at Foreign Policy