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Bush Tries to Shore Up Domestic Support on Iraq

President Bush has a huge political stake in the success of this week's elections in Iraq as he tries to rebuild domestic support for the U.S.-led effort there.

The president has given a series of speeches aimed at convincing the American public that despite the difficulties, it will be worth the effort to stay in Iraq and get the job done.

"The American and Iraqi people share the same interests and the same enemies and by helping democracy succeed in Iraq, we bring greater security to our citizens here at home."

That effort has been complicated by public opinion polls that show a downturn in support for the president's handling of Iraq and by pressure from some opposition Democrats to set a firm timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops," said President Bush.

Congressman John Murtha, a retired Marine colonel, is a Democrat from Pennsylvania.

"People are way ahead of the Congress," said John Murtha. "They are way ahead of the administration. They want a change of direction in this thing."

Congressional Republicans are trying to rally to the president's side. They reject calls for a quick phased withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Senator Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, appeared on the CBS program Face the Nation.

"And the only thing that worries them is that Congress will lose its nerve and that we will pull out before the job is done," said Jeff Sessions.

Opposition Democrats remain split on what to do about Iraq. Though some now support Congressman Murtha's proposal for a firm timetable for departure, others reject the idea.

Senator Joe Biden, a Democrat from Delaware, appeared on ABC's This Week program.

"I think we still have a 50-50 chance of winning this game," said Joe Biden. "But it requires some change."

Republicans hope that the president's speeches laying out why the United States must remain in Iraq will shore up domestic support.

Once again, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama.

"He [Bush] is going to have to speak out consistently and regularly and explain to the American people what is occurring," he said. "Perhaps that was not done enough in recent months."

Some recent polls suggest the president's approval rating is ticking upward a bit, to above 40 percent.

Independent political analyst Stuart Rothenberg is a guest on VOA's Talk to America program.

"I think it has helped a little bit in that it at least stopped the slide [in public support] but the president has not really carried the agenda the way he did at the beginning of the war against terror," said Stuart Rothenberg.

Other analysts contend the president can do little to win over public support until the situation in Iraq improves.

Larry Sabato directs the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

He believes the public has turned against the war in Iraq but is unsure what should happen next.

"They [the public] do not like the Bush administration's Iraq policy and they have rejected it and they wish very much that we were not there," said Larry Sabato. "But we are and because we are, they also do not want immediate pullout."

Professor Sabato and other analysts believe the slight rebound in the president's poll numbers may have more to do with falling fuel prices at home than his speeches on Iraq.