Pelosi and Sen. Barbara Boxer were two of the California Democrats who voted against authorizing then-President George W. Bush to use military force in Iraq more than a decade ago. This time, both are backing Obama.
Boxer voted Wednesday for a Senate Foreign Relations Committee resolution to authorize military action in Syria. Pelosi emerged Tuesday from a meeting at the White House united with the president and her Republican counterpart, House Speaker John Boehner.
Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif., said the calculation is different for a new lawmaker in Beras position than it is for Boxer and Pelosi, now senior leaders.
If Im a freshman, the folks in my district outrank my party leaders, Pitney said. The folks in the district are still going to be there after the leaders are gone.
An Aug. 29-Sept. 1 poll by Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 48 percent of Americans oppose military intervention in Syria, while only 29 percent support it.
Jacobson, who supports a Syria strike, said its clear that public opinion is running against it. But, he added, public support for military interventions rarely affects elections, even when things go right. Former President George H.W. Bushs approval ratings soared after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. But he lost reelection in 1992.
Whether theyre in their first year in office or have been in Congress for decades, Jacobson said a vote on authorizing the use of military force is a matter of conscience.
Youre talking about something that transcends electoral politics, Jacobson said. Theres no guarantee a vote either way plays better if youre a Republican or a Democrat.