Brown strategist: national security the sleeper issue of the campaign (updated)

NRO's Robert Costa interviewed Scott Brown strategist Eric Fernstrom who revealed something from their internal polls which no pundit to my knowledge has observed.

The key issue for Massachusetts voters was not healthcare or spending. It was national security and the treatment of enemy terrorists. If the White House polls bear this out, Eric Holder's decisions on trying the terrorists in civilian courts and the botched handling of the Christmas underwear bomber should mean a shake up in the Department of Justice and Homeland Security.

Is there room under the bus for Holder and Napolitano?

On the issues, "people talk about the potency of the health-care issue, but from our own internal polling, the more potent issue here in Massachusetts was terrorism and the treatment of enemy combatants," says Fehrnstrom. Health care, he says, was helpful in fundraising, but it was the campaign's focus on national security in the final week that he believes helped to give voters another issue to associate with Brown. [Emphasis supplied.]Plus, he says, Brown supported the Romney health-care plan, so he couldn't "be painted as a ‘just say no' Republican, but could articulate a message as a ‘just start over' Republican."

Even removing those two officials, however, which seems essential to get independent (and women ) voters back onboard, would hardly be enough I think to persuade them that this President and his party really get it. They are, it seems to me, wedded to a feckless series of policies which will cost them dearly at the polls.


Update: Rosslyn Smith adds:
Brown followed through on this theme of national security in his victory speech when he stated to cheers that tax dollars should pay to protect us, not pay their lawyers. 

Among the many lessons for other Republicans in Brown's victory is that both parties have been losing voters to the ranks of independents because office holders in both parties have ignored the voters in favor of their own agendas once in office.  Brown promised Massachusetts voters he would be independent.  I think most voters consider that to mean that he'll listen to those who elected him more closely than he will listen to party bosses and lobbyists in Washington, DC.  He didn't say he'll always agree, but that he'll listen and he won't sell his vote to party bosses for special favors. 

The other lesson is that we need never apologize for keeping our own citizens safe. Andrew McCarthy notes that while the Bush Administration had sound policies on defense and counterterrorism, it refused to defend them vigorously.  As McCarthy states:

Scott Brown went out and made the case for enhanced interrogation, for denying terrorists the rights of criminal defendants, for detaining them without trial, and for trying them by military commission. It worked. It will work for other candidates willing to get out of their Beltway bubbles.

Yes, the Left will say you are making a mockery of our commitment to "the rule of law." MSNBC will run segments on your dark conspiracies to "shred the privacy rights of Americans." The New York Times will wail that you're heedless of the damage you'll do to "America's reputation in the international community."

The answer is: So what? The people making these claims don't speak for Americans - they speak at Americans, in ever shrinking amounts. If you're going to cower from a fight with them, we don't need you. Get us a Scott Brown who'll take them on in their own backyard. And he'll take them on with confidence because he knows their contentions are frivolous - and he knows that Americans know this, too.

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