There is a reported deal on the table that would have U.S. troops out of Iraq by 2012 with troops out of cities and towns by June 30, 2009. Both nations still have to approve the deal and there will be written-in wiggle room to allow Americans to stay longer at Iraqi request, but it certainly looks like there is soon going to be a timeline in place.
How will this affect the presidential race? If the Bush administration completes withdrawal plans in the next few months, does that undermine Barack Obamaâ€™s own plans for withdrawal? Does it also undermine John McCainâ€™s â€œtough stanceâ€ on Iraq by forcing him into a position more in-line with the one Obamaâ€™s proposed all along?
Seemingly, because McCain has sided with the administration since the beginning of the surge, he will adjust his stance to accept the withdrawal timeline. After all, if American generals, the Iraqi government and key diplomats all agree that there is the necessary security to warrant an American withdrawal, I canâ€™t see McCain disagreeing. He can probably position the policy shift by claiming heâ€™s always followed the so-called realities on the ground.
Obamaâ€™s challenge is a little less straight-forward. He built a good deal of his campaign by actively opposing (some would say reflexively opposing) the Bush administrationâ€™s Iraq policy. Now, heâ€™ll be a little stuck. He could say we need to get out even sooner, but â€œleave soonerâ€ is not the most motivating of rallying cries.
Weâ€™ll have to see how this situation develops but, undoubtedly, the Bush administrationâ€™s massive policy shift towards accepting a timeline for withdrawal will affect the presidential race and how the two candidates position themselves. Who benefits most remains to be seen.