By James Oliphant and John Whitesides
WASHINGTON/DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) – The lethal attacks in Paris have the potential to reshape the U.S. presidential race, placing a new emphasis on issues of national security, border control, and counterterrorism, while perhaps bolstering candidates who talk toughest about taking on Islamic State militants both at home and abroad.
National security has not assumed a central place in a U.S. presidential election for more than a decade as the economy preoccupied American voters. But with the nation’s economic health on the upswing and the threat of Islamic terrorism now looming in Europe, that may change.
National security will be the focus of Saturday’s Democratic presidential debate in Iowa, with the front-runner, Hillary Clinton, expected to be pressed on how she would confront the threat from Islamic State and other terror groups.
“Something as startling, as shocking as these attacks are going to propel (national security) back to center stage,” said Brian Katulis, a foreign-policy analyst with the Center for American Progress, a think-tank in Washington.
In the immediate aftermath of the coordinated assaults in Paris, which killed at least 129 and injured 352 more and for which Islamic State has claimed responsibility, conservative presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz called on the Obama administration to reconsider plans to allow thousands of Syrian refugees to be resettled in the United States.
“With the problems our country has, to take in 250,000 people, some of whom are going to have problems, big problems, is just insane,” Trump said at a rally Saturday in Beaumont, Texas.
In an interview with Fox News, Cruz, a senator from Texas, called taking in refugees “lunacy.”
The White House aims to increase to 10,000 the number of Syrian refugees accepted in the United States during fiscal year 2016, from the less than 2,000 accepted in the previous year.
Another Republican contender, Carly Fiorina, criticized the Obama administration for not building a stronger coalition in the Middle East in the fight against Islamic State.
“Jordan, Kuwait, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Bahrainis, the Emiratis, the Kurds, all our fighting ISIS on the ground as we speak,” Fiorina said in a campaign appearance in Florida on Saturday. “And all, every single one of them have asked the United States of America for support, for weapons, for material, for intelligence sharing. Mostly this administration has said no. I will say yes.”
Peter Feaver, a former top aide to the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration, said the attack