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'Raw Politics': Iraq debate cuts both ways

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  • Democrats used to use war in Iraq as their trump card, Foreman says
  • Signs of progress in Iraq could change its role in the election, Foreman says
  • Both parties have some facts about Iraq on their side, Foreman says
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By Tom Foreman
CNN Washington Bureau
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"Raw Politics" on "Anderson Cooper 360" delivers the latest political news with a wry sense of a humor and without spin.

(CNN) -- Americans have decided about the war in Iraq, and they don't like it. Too much sacrifice, they say. Too much death, too many wounded, too little hope for a good end. Two-thirds oppose our involvement.

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Both parties have some facts about Iraq on their side, says CNN's Tom Foreman.

That's why eight months ago, the war was an albatross for the Republican nominee, almost no matter who won that position. Voters, by and large, put responsibility for the war at the feet of the president and his party.

Democrats considered it their trump card. Anti-war sentiment, deep and broad, would propel them into the White House where they could end the war once and for all.

Now, John McCain is trying to change that. Does he have a chance? Oddly enough, yes.

Eight months is a long time, and a lot has changed in Iraq. The facts on the ground, the numbers, military leaders, and independent analysts all say it has changed. Video Watch what's changed in Iraq »

Where once we saw nearly 150 American troops dying every month, now its well below 50. Still terrible, but better.

Once the insurgency seemed a hopeless haven for al Qaeda; but now thousands upon thousands of former enemies have become allies, buying into the Sunni Awakening movement. They still want us out, but they want al Qaeda out more.

The Shiite militias have quieted down dramatically, with a cease-fire being extended in just the past few weeks as the country continues trying to recover.

The Iraqi government is moving ahead, by fits and starts certainly, but ahead none the less. Oil revenue is being shared, even though a comprehensive agreement on the future of that enterprise is still not settled.

Warring factions are at least talking about peace.

It is all hugely imperfect. The Democrats are right when they say progress has been terribly slow and painful. They are right when they say our country and Iraq have paid a terrible price for a war many Americans now wish we had never gotten into.

They are right when they say there is no guarantee that the promising trends will continue. They are right when they say the tentative, struggling movement toward peace in Iraq could collapse at any moment.

But they are wrong if they think this is still wholly their issue.

McCain has enough facts on his side to at least make a reasonable argument that both his criticism of the war's prosecution in the past, and his support for how it is being handled now, have produced positive results.

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And don't forget: Americans do not like losing wars. Even people who oppose this war now, could well change their minds if they become convinced that staying the course can produce something that at least passes for victory.

Americans have decided about the war in Iraq. But that war is not yet over, and it follows that their opinions could change. The election is in eight months away. And eight months is a long time. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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