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Even In An Obama Stronghold, Voters Saying 'No' On Syria

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., gestures as he speaks in an Oversight Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in May 22.
Carolyn Kaster
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., gestures as he speaks in an Oversight Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in May 22.

Among the hurdles in the House to authorizing U.S. strikes on Syria: Many lawmakers say that back home there's very little support for military action.

Recent polling confirms those accounts. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Tuesday, just 19 percent of those surveyed supported intervention in Syria, compared with 56 percent who said the U.S. should not intervene.

Here's South Carolina Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan challenging Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday:

"I have spoken to hundreds of constituents — this [thick pile of papers] represents about 300 emails that my office has gotten. And not a one, not a one member in my district in South Carolina, or the emails of people that have contacted my office, say, 'Go to Syria and fight this regime.' To a letter, they say, 'No. Do not go into Syria. Don't get involved in their civil war.' "

That kind of response might be expected in a conservative district like Duncan's, which isn't inclined to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt — it gave 65 percent of the vote to Mitt Romney in 2012.

But Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat who represents one of the most Democratic and pro-Obama districts in the country, also reports deep resistance among his constituents.

In a Thursday interview with Michel Martin, host of NPR's Tell Me More, Cummings said he's encountered near-universal opposition in his Baltimore-based district — a place that delivered landslide victories to Obama both in 2008 and in 2012.

"We are in a situation where, first of all, 95 — probably 97 percent — of everybody who calls my office and emails my office — and this, by the way, I come from a district which was about 85 percent for President Obama — [is] saying 'no.' And walking in here today to my office, I had a nurse ... at Johns Hopkins who's been there for 17 years, begged me not to vote for this bill.

"So I said, 'Do you understand there's chemical weapons?' She said, 'Folks have been using chemical weapons for a long time.' She said, 'Do you realize when I took my son to school, they didn't even have books for him to even, you know, to learn from? But we're going over to a country and we're gonna be bombing — we don't even know how it's gonna end.' "

You can hear the full interview with Cummings here.

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Charles Mahtesian is NPR's Politics Editor.