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Bush Tries to Boost Domestic Support for Iraq


Following his brief visit to Baghdad, President Bush says he sees steady progress in Iraq as he continues to rally domestic support for the war effort there.

In the wake of his dramatic surprise visit to Baghdad and the recent death of terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a newly confident President Bush seems intent on boosting domestic support for the war in Iraq.

"The American people have got to understand, I believe we are going to succeed," he said. "That is why we are there. My message to the Iraqis is we are going to help you succeed."

Zarqawi's death, the Bush visit to Baghdad and the formation of a new government have encouraged Republicans about the situation in Iraq. Many of them worry that discontent over Iraq will hurt them politically in the November midterm congressional elections.

"It is a very courageous act on his part, a very bold act and it communicates how deeply committed he is personally to winning this war and doing the right thing," said former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

These new developments in Iraq appear to be giving a slight boost to the president's public approval ratings, which have declined over much of the last year.

"It is hard to believe but if you check, you will find that Bush has not had a really positive week since the second inauguration, that was a year and a half ago," said Larry Sabato, who directs the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. "He has had a long dry spell of primarily bad news and it has been one thing right after another and it has driven him from the mid-50's [in poll approval ratings] all the way down to the low to mid-30's. So this was a very welcome week."

Some opposition Democrats caution the Bush administration not to read too much into the recent positive developments in Iraq.

"It is two years later and there is very little sign of progress," said Senator Charles Schumer of New York. "Even the killing of Zarqawi, as welcome as it is, does not indicate whether there is going to be a government that can run, does not indicate whether the Iraqi armed forces can start defending themselves."

President Bush says success in Iraq depends on the Iraqis, and that any drawdown of U.S. troops there will depend on the security situation.

But Republicans are clearly seizing on the latest round of good news in hopes of boosting their own chances of holding onto majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives in November.

Political analyst Larry Sabato believes it will take a lot more good news out of Iraq in the coming months to significantly sway domestic public opinion about the U.S. presence in Iraq.

"Most Americans have deep doubts about what is happening in Iraq," he added. "They are delighted about the killing of Zarqawi. I could not imagine any American not being happy about it and they will be happy every time a terrorist is caught. But overall, they see Iraq as a tunnel without a light at the end of it."

Opposition Democrats remain divided over Iraq. Those divisions were on display this week when some liberal activists booed a speech by Senator Hillary Clinton of New York in which she said she would not support a firm deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

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