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Playing politics with Iraq attack?

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The latest from the political grapevine, compiled by the CNN Political Unit.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein  

  • Do Republicans open themselves to charges of playing politics by talking up a military attack on Iraq so close to the midterm elections? Not so, says Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tennessee. Frist tells CNN's Dana Bash he is convinced Americans don't think the prospect of war with Iraq is politically motivated. But just in case, Frist has ordered the National Republican Senate Committee not to conduct focus groups or polls on the issue. Frist noted that conventional wisdom says it would help Republicans in November if the United States attacked or prepared to attack Iraq, because defense and veterans affairs are generally seen as Republican issues. But because of the geo-political issues at stake, Frist doesn't think that's the case. "I'm not convinced there is a Republican advantage," he said. For political reasons the administration needs to be clear about where it is going and why, he said.
  • Daschle

  • Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle disagrees. "I think that we do have to worry about the politicization of this issue and I think that there are skeptics out there who wonder to what extent the political implications of any of this may effect the elections," the South Dakota Democrat said Wednesday. "It is critical that we take great care that timing and all other issues are taken into account."
  • Looking toward the elections, Democratic pollster Mark Mellman said Democrats would do well to focus more on butter, less on guns. In a briefing this week to a group of Senate Democrats who help craft the party's message, Mellman said the more Democrats talk about domestic issues, the better; the more they talk about Iraq, the worse. Mellman also referred to history in his talk with lawmakers: Military campaigns get limited support, but once the nation gets into the fight, he noted, the support goes up.
  • Lott

  • Speaking of messages, Bash reported that a group of Republican Senators held a strategy meeting Wednesday in Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott's Capitol office. Among those who attended were John Warner of Virginia; Richard Lugar of Indiana; Nebraska's Chuck Hagel; Richard Shelby of Alabama, Pat Roberts of Kansas; Mitch McConnell of Kentucky; and John McCain of Arizona. The senators met to start mapping a timetable for hearings, briefings, resolutions and other legislative activity after President Bush addresses the United Nations next Thursday to lay out his Iraq policy.




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