The recent Gallup poll found not only that the overwhelming majority of Americans think it is time to bring our troops home from Afghanistan, but even among Republicans there is an even split between those who say withdraw and those who think we should stay. Theoretically, this should create a potential opening for an anti-war Republican presidential primary candidate.Which comes closer to your view -- the U.S. has accomplished its mission in Afghanistan and should bring its troops home, or the U.S. still has important work to do in Afghanistan and should maintain its troops there? May 2011

In a one-on-one matchup, there are not enough anti-war Republicans to allow a “bring ‘em home” candidate to win a Republican primary. But, with a crowded presidential field, a candidate will likely only need to secure a relatively small plurality of the vote in most early states to get the nomination. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in most of the first dozen primary states, the top vote-getter receives less than 40 percent of the vote.

With most of the strongest likely candidates having already staked out fairly hawkish positions, there is an unfulfilled political market niche. This, in theory, could be a big opening for a candidate to draw votes from the entire half of the Republican base that wants to end the war, and some additional votes from strongly anti-war non-Republicans that can vote in open primary states.

I suspect the war in Afghanistan will only become less popular among all voters, including Republicans, over the next year, making that potential opening ever larger in a few months.

Of course, if the economy remains such a dominant issue, Republican primary voters could rank the importance of candidates’ positions on the war as too low to be a deciding factor.