Here's the first installment of The Atlantic Panel. Each of the two dozen respondents said they did not know who they would for. I asked them whether Iraq would be important to their votes and why.
"I am torn between my desire to see the troops come home (which Obama promises/-ed) and trying to measure each candidates judgment on the use of the military. It would be simple for me to connect the dots that "Obama wants the troops out - I want the troops out - Iraqis want the troops out", but just because he (Obama) may be correct right now doesn't mean he was 18 months ago. It is quite possible that McCain's judgment about the surge is the reason that the rest of the discussion is even possible."
A Bush '00 and '04 voter favors Obama's position on withdrawal, but he worries that Obama will "set a timetable based on what the left tells him to do, rather than what's correct, and he'll leave too soon and leave our forces vulnerable to attack."
Indeed, there's a lot of skepticism about both whether either candidate will follow through. One panelist worries that Obama is saying we will get out fast because that is what his base is wanting" and "McCain is playing the stay the course card because that is what his base wants."
A father from Florida "wants to know that McCain is committed to leaving Iraq. The actual timeline is less important than the idea that one exists."
A sales manager "does not perceive too much of a difference in the candidates' forward-looking Iraq policies, more so argument over who had the best judgment over the past five years. I think we have a chance to declare victory and leave with McCain emphasizing the former and Obama that latter - whoever can combine the two most clearly will "win" that issue for me."
A Baltimore public school teacher:
While I like the symbolic nature of Mr. Obama's campaign, I am having trouble swallowing his packet of promises and the tax increases they would bring. Likewise, Mr. McCain does not exactly fill my with great joy, since many of the same party chiefs that are currently in power would remain.
A 28-year old man from New York City
I am not at all certain that either side's promises for the future matter much at all. Both the McCain and Obama camps seem quite likely to take a measure of the actual situation on the ground before making a decision as to how to proceed
A Reagan Democrat turned Democratic-leaning independent does not "for an instant" credit Obama "with courage or judgment" for the war "just because he made a Putin or De
Villepin-like anti war speech to fellow leftists to pander to them in his liberal Hyde Park District back in 2002." So he's voting for McCain, right? Not necessarily. "But Iraq will not be the only thing, or even the primary thing I vote on. The economy, corruption of democracy by special
interests, inability of government to work well with Republicans running it are more important matters."