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Leading House Republican: Iraq not a reflection on me

From Lisa Goddard
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As she fights for her political life, Ohio Republican Rep. Deborah Pryce distanced herself Thursday from the Iraq war, telling CNN Radio, "What's happening in Iraq is not a direct reflection on me."

The seven-term representative is the House Republican Caucus chairwoman, the fourth highest-ranking position in the House. She won re-election in 2004 with 62 percent of the vote. However, experts say her current race with Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy is a toss-up.

Pryce made the remark Tuesday in an interview at a Columbus, Ohio, factory. When pressed by CNN on whether her position as a House leader connected her to the volatile situation in Iraq, Pryce objected to the interruption of her remarks and said the interview was over. (Watch Iraq vet campaign as Democrat in GOP-ville -- 2:40 Video)

"Thanks, I'm done," Pryce said. She expressed frustration and walked away saying, "Maybe we'll call you later when I'm feeling better."

In a statement issued to CNN later, Pryce finished her response, writing, "What's happening in Iraq is not a direct reflection on me."

"I voted to give the president the authority to use force in Iraq; that doesn't mean I'm always happy with what I see, but I can think of nothing worse for our troops or our prospects for success than having 435 members of Congress second-guessing our commanders," Pryce wrote.

Pryce's reaction comes in a pressure-filled race where Iraq is a prominent issue.

In a CNN poll released Wednesday, Iraq topped the list of issues that Americans consider "extremely important" as the country heads into Tuesday's midterm elections. (Full story)

Another poll conducted for CNN by the Opinion Research Corp. and released Monday found that 59 percent of Americans oppose the war in Iraq, while 38 percent support it.

Ohio voter Audrey Burns, who toured the factory when Pryce was there, said the war is the deciding factor for her at the polls.

"We need to get out of there," Burns said. "We're losing guys right and left."

The 28-year resident of Columbus whispered that she's voting for a change this year.

Pryce has her own base of support, many of whom applaud her for rising into leadership and using her position to help the 15th District -- encompassing most of Columbus' urban areas as well as the city's western suburbs.

"She's been tremendously effective," said voter Hernando Posado. He believes Pryce is in a tight contest largely because of low approval ratings for the president.

Thirty-seven percent of Americans approve of the way President Bush is handling his job, while 58 percent disapprove, according to a CNN poll released Monday.

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