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Inside Politics

Dean, Gephardt spar on Iraq

Iowa Sen. Harkin calls for restraint

Carl Reiner joins a rally n Sioux City, Iowa, for Howard Dean.
Carl Reiner joins a rally n Sioux City, Iowa, for Howard Dean.

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• The Candidates: Bush | Kerry
Democratic Party

DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) -- With less than a week until the Iowa caucuses, the two Democratic candidates running neck-and-neck for first place in the state -- Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt -- continued to spar over the issue of the Iraq war.

In the District of Columbia, meanwhile, voters went to the polls in a primary most of the major candidates bypassed. (Full story)

Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said he believes candidates who don't win in Iowa, New Hampshire or any of the seven primary contests on February 3 should consider dropping out of the race. (Audio Slide Show: Countdown to Iowa)

"I think on the morning of February 4, if you're a Democratic candidate for president and you haven't won one of those nine contests, I would assume at that point you really need to assess your candidacy," McAuliffe told CNN.

McAuliffe said that after the first nine contests "the whole country has been in play, all the different groups of the Democratic Party have been involved in this process, and we need to narrow this down."

Nine Democrats are in the race for the Democratic nomination.

As Monday's contest in Iowa has gotten closer, Dean has come under increasing fire from other candidates in the Democratic field. Monday he blasted back, saying he would no longer be a "pin cushion" for his rivals.

In an interview Tuesday with CNN's "American Morning," Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa's senior Democratic officeholder, urged candidates to ramp back their criticism of the former Vermont governor.

"I think it's been much too negative, especially against Governor Dean," said Harkin, who endorsed Dean last week.

"I know when you're the front-runner, you're going to take hits ... but there comes a point where I believe Democratic candidates ought to restrain themselves a little bit."

Responding to newspaper reports about an academic paper by a visiting professor at the Army War College saying the Iraq war was a strategic mistake because it diverted attention from the war on terrorism, Dean in a statement Tuesday accused Gephardt and other Democrats in Congress who supported the war of failing "to ask the tough questions of the president."

The paper was published by the college's Strategic Studies Institute, a military think tank that often disseminates articles with controversial views to stimulate discussion among students at the college, who are mostly mid-level military officers, and in the wider defense community, according to a pubic affairs officer at the college, which is at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. (Text of article)

Gephardt, in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, stood behind his vote for a congressional resolution supporting the use of force to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. ( Full story)

"I don't apologize for that, and I'm not sorry that Saddam Hussein is gone," Gephardt said, adding that responsibility for "a deadly quagmire in the sands of Iraq, with no exit strategy and scant international support" rests with the Bush administration, not Democrats who supported the war "on good faith and with America's security at heart."

In his speech, the Missouri congressman accused the Bush administration of "overwhelming arrogance" in its conduct of foreign policy, which he said has alienated allies who are needed to combat the root causes of terrorism.

"The very heart of my candidacy ... is to restore American leadership in the world, to show that foreign policy is more than a John Wayne movie, more than a forum for boasts and bravado," he said.

The latest tracking poll in Iowa by Zogby International for Reuters and MSNBC showed Dean was the choice of 28 percent of likely Democratic caucus voters in Iowa, with Gephardt at 23 percent. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts was in third place at 17 percent, with Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina in fourth place at 14 percent. All of the other candidates were in single digits, with 12 percent of the likely caucus-goers still undecided ahead of Monday's contest.

Dick Gephardt talks to a rally of Machinists Union members in Seattle.
Dick Gephardt talks to a rally of Machinists Union members in Seattle.

Edwards, who has been mired in single digits in national polls, is now within striking distance of a third-place finish in Iowa, buoyed by an endorsement from the state's largest newspaper, the Des Moines Register.

In a speech Tuesday in Des Moines, Edwards struck a populist theme, saying "in so many ways, we live in a country where there are still two Americas."

"There's one for those in position of privilege and power, who get everything they need, who never have to worry about anything," he said. "And then there's one for everybody else, folks who work hard every day, struggle to get by and have a hard time paying their bills."

Touting his own health care plan, Edwards also took a swipe at Gephardt and Dean, who have both pledged to repeal all of President Bush's tax cuts, including tax cuts that benefit the middle class, to fund their own health care proposals.

"These are questions you should ask me and the other candidates: First, how much does your plan cost? Are you going to have to raise taxes on middle-class and working families to pay for it," Edwards said.

While Dean has won the endorsement of Harkin, the state's other Democratic heavyweight, Gov. Tom Vilsack, has remained neutral. But Iowa's first lady, Christine Vilsack, endorsed Kerry and told CNN Tuesday that momentum is growing for the Massachusetts senator.

"I've been a teacher for 30 years. That attracts me to John Kerry because I truly believe he can fix No Child Left Behind," she said. "I wanted to be a role model and take a stand for someone in the caucuses Monday night."

Other developments

• Howard Dean won the first vote of the 2004 presidential campaign season on Tuesday, although it was more of a voting rights rally than a chance to express a preference for a candidate. Dean, the former Vermont governor, got 43 percent of the votes, followed by Al Sharpton with 34 percent, former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun with 12 percent and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, with 8 percent. (Full story)

• President Bush on Wednesday will call on Congress to increase funding for NASA by nearly a billion dollars annually over the next five years, while radically transforming the space agency's manned space flight goals -- from low Earth orbit -- to audacious missions to the moon and ultimately, Mars. "I think what the president has touched on is an important aspect of what is part of our human makeup -- which is to be explorers," said NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe in an exclusive interview with CNN. (Full story, Gallery: Bush may expand space program)

• Two-thirds of Americans polled say they think President Bush has the right personal qualities for the presidency, yet nearly half or more think the Democratic Party would do a better job on major domestic issues, according to a new poll. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Tuesday interviewed 1,003 adult Americans last weekend on Bush and national issues ranging from the environment to security. (Full story, Interactive: Fast look at the poll results)

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