Less than three months away from the first primary in Iowa, the Paris attacks have altered the tone and focus of the presidential race. The outsider candidates may not be as attractive as those with more robust foreign policy and Washington experience, now that the threat from the Middle East feels closer to home.
Volatile candidates will also start to seem dangerously incompetent when faced with crises.
The race has shifted from pitting candidates’ personalities against each other, to a focus on who can be the most able Commander in Chief.
The events in Paris will make winning the nomination more difficult for Donald Trump and Ben Carson, who have little to no foreign policy experience, whereas John Kasich and Jeb Bush will push their executive experience with security, while Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio will cite their Washington/national security experience, respectively.
Whereas Trump was uncharacteristically quiet when it came to the Sunday shows this weekend, he did go to Twitter to spew anti-Obama rhetoric calling for, “tougher, much smarter leadership.”
Carson, on the other hand, tried his luck on "Fox News Sunday," but fell short of sounding resolute or detailing any coherent plan for fighting ISIL. He wasn’t able to point out the first person he’d call to put together an international coalition, trying to slither out of the question with, “I don’t want to leave anybody out.”
Kasich made strong arguments, also on Sunday, for why he would be able to deal with ISIL better than his opponents, listing specific policies that he would enact as president, including arming the Kurds, setting up a no-fly zone and improving cooperation with Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Other candidates are starting to make more aggressive statements. Marco Rubio went as far as to characterize the war against jihadi terror as a “clash of civilizations.” He also joined Jeb Bush in calling for a declaration of war against ISIL.
Bush has already gone on the offensive less that 48 hours after the attacks on “Meet the Press,” when he said the way the two Republican front runners, Trump and Carson, talk about the issue of national security and foreign affairs is cause for concern. Bush will have to be careful not to mirror his brother when elaborating on his plan to combat ISIL at the Citadel in South Carolina on Wednesday.
Hillary Clinton, as discussed in yesterday’s column, won Saturday’s debate but was unable to distinguish herself from Bernie Sanders by pointing to her experience as Secretary of State. While her time as Secretary does offer her more clout when it comes to foreign policy, Benghazi continues to cast a cloud over her time in the Obama administration.
The permanence of this new tone is questionable, but considering the size of the Paris attacks and the very real possibility of additional ones, jihadi terrorism will stay at the forefront of many campaign discussions.