How will the Paris attacks impact the 2016 presidential race?
Foreign policy has surged to the forefront of voters' concerns in the aftermath of the horrific terrorist attacks that the Islamic State group launched in Paris on Friday night. Over the weekend, the 2016 presidential candidates weighed in on how the United States should respond to the attacks, which killed at least 129 people and injured 352. In addition to driving political debate, the situation in Paris could impact the outcome of the United States' presidential race.
So far, Washington outsiders, including businessman Donald Trump and former neurosurgeon Ben Carson, have been among the most popular candidates, but Peter Nicholas and Beth Reinhard of The Wall Street Journal suggest that voters might start questioning the leadership ability of candidates who lack political experience. They write, "The Paris attacks and potency of Islamic State, which France blames for the deadly assaults, could reshuffle the field as voters ask: Is this the moment to turn over the presidency to an untested outsider?"
Shane Goldmacher of Politico also reports that voters will turn to candidates who are qualified to serve as commander in chief. He observes, "The disparity between candidates has been present and glaring for months, of course, but it took a back seat in a primary where experience has been akin to a dirty word, and early state voters haven't demanded great familiarity with world affairs." Goldmacher raises the question of whether the Paris attacks will cause Trump's and Carson's popularity to decline. "The question for 2016 now turns on whether foreign policy fluency and the seasoning of elected office somehow morph into assets, a development that could dislodge the two outsiders who are currently perched comfortably atop the polls – Donald Trump and Ben Carson – and reorder the race," he writes.
Ben Carson should be particularly concerned that foreign policy is gaining voters' attention, according to Philip Bump at The Washington Post. Bump notes that foreign policy is Carson's weakness and concludes, "A shift away from the economy and social issues and toward foreign policy might be inevitable after what happened Friday. For Ben Carson, that's probably not good news."
However, Jamelle Bouie at Slate disagrees that the Paris attacks will hurt Donald Trump in the polls. In fact, Bouie says that Trump's comments on the attacks might actually increase his popularity. He writes, "GOP voters are attracted to Trump for his bravado and belligerent rhetoric against real and perceived foreign threats. Far from undermining his campaign, the Paris attacks strengthen the atavistic nationalism that fuels his campaign."
John Fund of The National Review thinks that the Democratic presidential candidates' rhetoric about the attacks – especially their refusal to attribute responsibility to "radical Islam" – is troublesome because it is too politically correct. "By comparison with the French, the three Democratic presidential candidates looked timid, obsessed with political appearances, and unserious. Perhaps Wall Street executives should be worried about one of them becoming president, but I'm not sure ISIS leaders should," he writes, using another common name for the Islamic State group. He asserts that the way the three candidates approached the attacks during the debate on Saturday – only one day after the attacks took place – "exposed the real weakness the Democratic field has on national security."