Tea Party split on Romney’s ‘American century’

GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney told an audience at a South Carolina military college this morning that his presidency would herald "an American century," calling for an additional 100,000 active duty personnel, an increased defense budget, and stronger U.S.-Israeli relations. While many of the GOP Tea Party views align with Romney’s presidential campaign, a new ...

Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney told an audience at a South Carolina military college this morning that his presidency would herald "an American century," calling for an additional 100,000 active duty personnel, an increased defense budget, and stronger U.S.-Israeli relations. While many of the GOP Tea Party views align with Romney's presidential campaign, a new poll conducted by the Pew Research Center points to some glaring discrepancies within the Tea Party that may prove deadly for Romney next November.  

In many areas, to be sure, Romney fulfills his reputation as a weathervane for Republican politics. In his speech, Romney raised the specter that Israel will feel "isolated by a hostile international community," and that "those who seek Israel's destruction [will] feel emboldened by American ambivalence." Pew found that 68 percent of Tea Party voters feel Obama favors the Palestinians too much, and that over half consider government stability in Middle Eastern countries of the utmost importance, even if it means less democracy.

Tea Party Republicans also appear receptive to Romney's calls for a strong military, with 60 percent stating military strength as the best way to ensure peace. But while Tea Partiers want to maintain U.S. military strength, they don't want to pay for it: 78 percent of Tea Party Republicans want to keep spending at current levels, or cut it back. On this issue, Romney -- who seeks to increase defense spending to 4 percent of GDP -- appears out of tune with the GOP base.

GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney told an audience at a South Carolina military college this morning that his presidency would herald "an American century," calling for an additional 100,000 active duty personnel, an increased defense budget, and stronger U.S.-Israeli relations. While many of the GOP Tea Party views align with Romney’s presidential campaign, a new poll conducted by the Pew Research Center points to some glaring discrepancies within the Tea Party that may prove deadly for Romney next November.  

In many areas, to be sure, Romney fulfills his reputation as a weathervane for Republican politics. In his speech, Romney raised the specter that Israel will feel "isolated by a hostile international community," and that "those who seek Israel’s destruction [will] feel emboldened by American ambivalence." Pew found that 68 percent of Tea Party voters feel Obama favors the Palestinians too much, and that over half consider government stability in Middle Eastern countries of the utmost importance, even if it means less democracy.

Tea Party Republicans also appear receptive to Romney’s calls for a strong military, with 60 percent stating military strength as the best way to ensure peace. But while Tea Partiers want to maintain U.S. military strength, they don’t want to pay for it: 78 percent of Tea Party Republicans want to keep spending at current levels, or cut it back. On this issue, Romney — who seeks to increase defense spending to 4 percent of GDP — appears out of tune with the GOP base.

Romney also made clear his skepticism about Obama’s planned withdrawal from Afghanistan, indicating his intention to consult military officials who have voiced concern over the rate of U.S. troop pullout. While 66 percent of GOP Tea Party voters feel it is unlikely that Afghanistan can maintain a stable government after U.S. troops leave, they appear to be split on the issue of whether to keep troops in Afghanistan until the situation has stabilized: 55 percent agree with staying, and 42 percent lean toward leaving as soon as possible. A similar split exists on the issue of reducing military commitments overseas: 55 percent of Tea Partiers approve of reducing troops overseas to help lower the national debt, and 44 percent disagree.

As Romney made clear today, his presidency would eschew the isolationist inclinations of some in the Tea Party in favor of the muscular interventionism of the George W. Bush era. But whether that’s what Americans will vote for come November 2012 is another story.

Sophia Jones is Global Editor at The Fuller Project. Twitter: @sophia_mjones

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