Angry Campaigns End on an Angrier Note
Iraq War Remains Paramount Issue as Voters Go to Polls
By Jim VandeHei and Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, November 7, 2006; A01
As the 2006 campaign staggered to an angry close, national security and the Iraq war dominated the final-day debate of midterm elections in which national themes, not simply local choices, have framed the most competitive races. Democrats said a vote for them would force change in Iraq strategy, while President Bush led the GOP charge in warning that the opposition party cannot be trusted in a time of war.
Dozens of too-close-to-call House and Senate races finished on a surly tone, as the traditional political strategy of shifting to a positive message at campaign's end gave way this year to a calculation that the best chance to tip the balance was through continued attacks over personal character and alleged corruption.
But strategists on both sides said yesterday that national security broadly -- and Iraq specifically -- are likely to determine control of Congress today. Unlike in the 2002 and 2004 elections, when Republicans held a decisive edge on national security, polls over the past year have shown the public losing faith in the war and the GOP, and Democratic candidates nationwide were using their last TV advertising dollars on spots critical of Iraq policy.
"I think, frankly, people don't believe the president anymore" when it comes to the war, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, echoing other party leaders, said in an interview. "We are telling people if they want to stay the course, vote Republican. If you want a change of direction, vote Democrat."
Bush, however, was betting that the Republican Party's historic advantage with voters in times when security issues are prominent will pay dividends again. "As you go to the polls, remember we're at war," he told thousands of GOP supporters in Pensacola, Fla. "And if you want this country to do everything in its power to protect you and at the same time lay a foundation for peace for generations to come, vote Republican."
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