Mr. Bush’s War: Foreign Policy in the 2004 Election


Philip A. Klinkner is James S. Sherman Associate Professor of Government and associate dean of students for academics at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. His publications includeThe Losing Parties: Out-Party National Committees, 1956-1993 (with Rogers Smith) and The Unsteady March: The Rise and Decline of America’s Commitment to Racial Equality.


This article examines the factors that account for George W. Bush’s victory in the 2004 election and finds that foreign-policy concerns were far more significant than attitudes on moral and cultural issues. The importance of foreign-policy issues stemmed from significant partisan polarization on the issue of Iraq. This partisan polarization, though extremely high compared to previous wars, is not, however, the result of strikingly different foreign-policy beliefs of Democrats and Republicans, but rather the result of polarized attitudes toward the war’s chief architect—George W. Bush.