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Record Number of Iraq War Vets Running for Congress


There is a record number of veterans running for office in the 2006 mid-term elections. All except one are running as Democrats and many are veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Jeff Swicord takes a look at two Democrats and one Republican candidate who are expected to have the best chances to win.

In the living room of the Jackson family, 32-year-old Patrick Murphy addresses a group of neighbors who have gathered to hear him speak.

Murphy, an Iraq war veteran, is running for Congress in the 8th district of Pennsylvania near the East Coast city of Philadelphia.

"Since May 16th in that primary, I can tell you in our campaign, we knocked on over 20,000 doors," he says as part of his conversation.

Patrick Murphy is one of about 10 veterans who fought in the Iraq and Afghan wars running for Congress this term. Only one is running as a Republican. Unlike 2004, in this election cycle Democrats think the country has grown weary of the president's policies in Iraq. And in every race across the country, they have made the Iraq war issue Number One.

"We need a change in direction in Iraq,” Murphy says. “That is why we need leaders to stand up and say, Mr. President, it is time to bring our troops home. And be very clear about it. And that is what we need to do."

Half way across the U.S., in Illinois' 6th district just outside of Chicago, Tammy Duckworth is another Iraq war veteran running as a Democrat for Congress. She served as a helicopter pilot in Iraq, and lost both of her legs when her helicopter was shot down. She was opposed to the war from the start. And like other Democratic hopefuls, her campaign strategy is to run against the policies of the president and the Republican-led House and Senate of the last six years.

"I just don't think that our policy makers have lived up to the sacrifices that our troops make,” said Duckworth. “And I want to be there in Congress the next time we decide that we are going to go to war. And to make sure that they understand the real costs of war and that it is the right thing to do."

In the 17th congressional district of West Texas, Van Taylor is the sole Iraq war veteran running as a Republican. He is running against a Democratic incumbent in this rural district -- home to President Bush and his ranch in Crawford.

Van Taylor, a Harvard graduate and successful businessman, was a U.S. Marine who served in Iraq as a captain. He is a strong supporter of President Bush and the Iraq war. And says there should be no retreat from Iraq until the job is done.

"You know I am not concerned about our troops on the ground. We have the greatest military in the world. I was proud to have served ten years in the Marine Corps with some outstanding young men and women who are fighting for our country and our freedom as we speak. What I am concerned about is liberal Democrats who are seeking to undercut the president's efforts to ensure, and our military's effort to make sure, that we stay free."

Van Taylor's campaign has refused to talk about poll numbers. Recent polls show Patrick Murphy's campaign gaining ground. In May he was down by 14 points to his first term Republican opponent. And in July, that margin had narrowed to 6 points.

In the last poll taken of her race in May, Tammy Duckworth was shown to be in a dead heat with her opponent. And some observers believe she has gained ground since then. The success of both candidates suggests their anti-war stance is resonating with voters. But the real test will come when voters head to the polls in November.

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