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Dramatic Increase in Support for Democrats by Men and Women in the Military

HT to the CarpetbaggerReport Blog: 

Washington Monthly ran a fascinating series of pieces a couple of months ago with the perspectives of active and retired U.S. troops explaining what they’re looking for from Democrats. Most of those featured seemed less than enthralled by the Republican Party — which assumes it “owns” the military vote — but there was some lingering hesitation about Dems.

The conventional wisdom suggests it’ll be a while, a long while, until Dems are drawing considerable support from those in uniform. But if contribution patterns are any indication, it may not be that long after all. (via Time)

Assessed favorably this week by the war’s lead general, the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq appears to be causing a surge of another sort — and one that’s not positive for President Bush or the Republican Party. Since the start of the Iraq war in 2003, members of the U.S. military have dramatically increased their political contributions to Democrats, marching sharply away from the party they’ve long supported. […]

“People are saying now enough is enough,” said Lt. Col. Joyce Griggs, an intelligence officer who said she spent two months in Baghdad earlier this year, speaking for herself and not the Army. “If you’re a soldier, you’re going to do your job, do what you’re commanded to do. But that sentiment is wide and deep.”

The shift is more than just a few percentage points. In 2002, the last full cycle before Bush launched the Iraqi invasion, the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics found that 23% of military members’ contributions went to Democrats. So far in 2007, that number is 40%.

More specifically, the drop-off for Republican support within the Army is striking. Before the war, 71% of Army campaign contributions went to the GOP. This year, that number is down to 51%. So, the GOP’s advantage went from more than 2-to-1 before the war, to near-parity now.

Just as surprising is which candidates are benefiting from this shift.

[Barack] Obama, who has never served in the military, has brought in more contributions from uniformed service members — about $27,000 — than any other presidential hopeful, Democrat or Republican. “I feel that he’s the most progressive candidate and he stands for change,” Griggs said. “I believe he is that breath of fresh air that we need to get this country back on course.”

Among GOP candidates, Ron Paul, the only Republican who opposes the war, has brought in the biggest haul from the military since the start of the 2008 election cycle in January — at least $19,250. Republican John McCain, a Vietnam War prisoner who backs the administration’s policy in Iraq, has raised $18,600. Paul, who was a flight surgeon in the Air Force, got nearly twice as much from servicemen and women in the campaign’s first six months as GOP fundraising front-runner Mitt Romney and four times more than better-known candidate Rudy Giuliani.

“If you’re a Republican partisan, but opposed to the war, it is not surprising that you’d find Paul somewhat attractive,” said Ronald Krebs, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota who studies the sociology of war and military service.

The truth is, the very idea of the “military vote” has always been a mistake. Members of the Armed Forces generally reflect the diversity of the country. “This shows that the military does not quite fit the stereotype of this Republican monolith,” said Joyce Raezer, chief operating officer of the National Military Family Association. “The military in a lot of ways reflects the country. It’s diverse in a lot of ways. It’s not a surprise you’d see people exercising their ability to support a variety of candidates.”

True, but the perception, buoyed by some data, has been that the troops tend to vote Republican. These contribution changes may indicate a broader shift about the relationship between the Democratic Party and the military.

Interesting, isn’t it?