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Iraq War Dominates Election's Final Days
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The Wall Street Journal

Iraq War Dominates Election's Final Days

Some Republicans Play Down Support of Conflict Ahead Of Next Week's Midterm Vote
November 1, 2006; Page A4

In early October, voters in a rural Pennsylvania congressional district received a political mailing that accused the front-runner in the race of using erroneous intelligence to help sell the Iraq war. The language in the campaign brochure -- which told voters the candidate "failed the nation once" and urged them not to give him "a chance to fail us again" -- wasn't unusual in the home stretch of an election dominated by the war. The surprising part was who issued it.

Although the flier included standard Democratic talking points criticizing the administration's rationale for the war in Iraq, it was sent by the Republican Federal Committee of Pennsylvania, the state party working to protect the incumbent, Rep. Don Sherwood. Mr. Sherwood is facing a challenge by Democrat Chris Carney, a Navy veteran who served in a Pentagon intelligence unit in the run-up to the war. With many polls showing the challenger ahead, the Republicans accused Mr. Carney of leading the nation to war by arguing there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda -- in effect tying Mr. Carney to a pivotal part of the administration's prewar rationale for the invasion. "I was stunned when I saw the mailing," Mr. Carney says in an interview. "The audacity of accusing someone of starting the war is itself ridiculous. And to impugn someone's military service smacks of desperation."

The fireworks in the Pennsylvania contest highlight a dynamic emerging in the final days before next week's midterm elections. With polls showing that the Iraq war could cost Republicans control of at least one house of Congress, some Republican candidates throughout the country are playing down their past support for the war and beginning to sound like their Democratic opponents when discussing the conflict. After years of ceding the national security issue to the Republicans, Democrats recruited a slate of military veterans as candidates and are challenging Republicans over Iraq and the party's strategy in the broader war on terror. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R., Tenn.) told a New Hampshire newspaper last week Republican candidates should get voters to "focus on pocketbook issues, and not on the Iraq and terror issue."


Some Republicans have gone further. In Montana, Republican Sen. Conrad Burns raised eyebrows at a debate with Democratic opponent Jon Tester, when he seemed to suggest the White House had a secret plan for ending the war in Iraq. "If you want to go out and spar for a fight, are you going to tell your enemy what your plan is? I don't think so," Mr. Burns said to Mr. Tester. "There is a plan. We're not going to tell you, Jon." Jason Klindt, a spokesman for the Burns campaign, said the senator "misspoke" during the debate and wasn't "claiming access to any secret" White House or Pentagon deliberations about Iraq. "He used the word 'plan,' but he had meant to talk about 'tactics' and 'benchmarks,'" Mr. Klindt said. "He was saying that you never give away your tactics to your enemy."

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