When a well-known journalist was shot dead at a checkpoint here last month, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki rushed to the scene. Speaking to a television camera, he promised “blood for blood.” In a city where hundreds die every month from explosions and gunshots, it was unusual for the prime minister to focus on a single murder. That scene, though, coming as it did just before elections, was a vivid demonstration of what diplomats and analysts say is Mr. Maliki’s best and last hope for securing a third term as prime minister: playing the strongman, a role Iraqis, for better or worse, are accustomed to seeing in their leaders. “Maliki is a man of power,” said Salah al-Robaei, 46, a university professor in Baghdad, who also called him “wise,” “tough” and a “great leader.” A strategy of showing toughness may win votes among Mr. Maliki’s Shiite constituency, […]