Monday, June 04, 2007

Efforts Seen This Summer To Make GOP Pay For Iraq War Support

The Republicans think that they have the Democrats on the run over the issue of the Iraq war.

The Democrats are planning a series of moves to try to prove the GOPers wrong.

Democratic congressional leaders, whose efforts to force a withdrawal from Iraq were stymied last month, plan a summer of repeated Iraq-related votes designed to force Republican lawmakers to abandon the White House before the fall.

At the same time, antiwar groups are expanding their campaign to pressure GOP incumbents in their home states.

Both efforts seek to ensure that anxious Republican lawmakers — many of whom have said they want to wait until September to assess President Bush's Iraq strategy — get no break from the war over the summer. ...

Tom Matzzie, campaign manager for Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, the leading coalition against the war, promised an equally unpleasant summer for Republicans whenever they return home.

"Our job is to go into the congressional districts of members and create a political environment that is toxic," he said. "The public is there already. It is really about focusing their anger." ...

Democrats — who are still working out the sequence of the summer's votes — are wary of overplaying their hand, even with popular support for a congressionally mandated troop withdrawal.

"Votes for the sake of having votes doesn't really help us. What we need are votes that show we are gaining in strength. So we need to be thoughtful," said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), a leading war critic who sponsored legislation last month to mandate withdrawal by next spring.

"But it is incredibly important that the debate continue in June and July. It keeps the pressure on the White House, and it keeps the pressure on Republicans to break with the president," he said. "At a minimum, we need to be building … for a showdown in September."

While antiwar lawmakers push ahead, so too will the antiwar groups that have played an influential role in the national debate over Iraq.

Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, a coalition of organizations including, and the Service Employees International Union, plans to hire 80 people this summer to organize rallies and other protest activities aimed primarily at Republican lawmakers, Matzzie said.

The coalition also plans an aggressive television advertising campaign, particularly against Republicans who are up for reelection next year and seen as vulnerable, such as Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, John E. Sununu of New Hampshire and Norm Coleman of Minnesota.

"Our goal," Matzzie said, "is political extinction for war supporters."

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