In August presidential candidate Rick Perry, who previously served in the Air Force, suggested that a truly dedicated president of the U.S. would have served in the military. Although it is evident with Perry’s current low poll numbers that military service alone is not enough, it does beg the question of how much an emphasis voters place on a candidate’s past military career.
While for much of American history service in the military was regarded as a sort of prerequisite for the presidency, that importance has somewhat waned in the past few years. This is evident by the lack-of-military experience presidential candidates have possessed in the last two election cycles.
Our current president, Obama, has never served in the military.
Of the GOP candidates, only Ron Paul and Perry have served in the Armed Forces. This is significant, especially since the GOP is typically the party that campaigns in favor of pro-military issues.
With the two front runners being Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, neither of whom have military experience, this is likely to be the first presidential race in 70 years where neither party nominee has ever served in the military, according to Politico.
Gallup polls from 2004 and 2008 elections reveal that the majority of voters say military service does not matter when they go to pick the next president. Perhaps surprisingly, combat veterans were equally indifferent to a candidate’s prior military service.
However, that hasn’t stopped Santorum from trying to equate his civil service career to that of the military.
“I grew up around veterans, I grew up around, you know, folks who loved their country and served their country,” he said, answering a question about what propelled him into government service, according to the Daily Caller.
“I didn’t see working in government service and being in politics as anything but serving your country, and doing in some ways - in a civilian sense - what a lot of folks did in a military sense. And I saw it as something that is honorable and good to do.”
“The rest of the country doesn’t function unless the government keeps us free,” Santorum continued, “and we need people in politics just like we need people in uniform to do that.”
Perhaps, in light of the decline of candidate’s with military backgrounds, that is what the electorate has come to believe as well.