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House Approves Iraq War Resolution

But Republicans wanted to air it out under the most favorable circumstances, debating over 10 hours a leadership-tailored resolution that would not be subject to amendment and would not face competing policy statements. By drafting a resolution that supported U.S. troops, emphasized triumphing over terrorism and called for victory in Iraq, GOP leaders had constructed a measure that was "hard not to support," said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.).

After the vote, Republicans crowed that they had held ranks while highlighting Democratic division. Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said, "We are pleased that 42 Democrats defied their leadership and stood with House Republicans to support both our troops and their mission to win the global war on terror."

The 42 Democrats were largely Southerners and members in Midwestern and Western swing districts, but they included a few surprises, such as Reps. Howard L. Berman of suburban Los Angeles and Stephen Lynch of Boston.

"I voted 'aye,' notwithstanding the partisan and cynical motivations of the Republican sponsors of the resolution, the patently unfair process by which it was brought before the House, and the grossly distorted recitation of events leading up to the present," Berman said.

But the Democratic defectors were about half the 81 who voted in October 2002 to authorize the use of force, an indication, some said, that the potency of the issue is defusing even in swing districts. Hawkish Democrats who had voted for the invasion, such as Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee; Rep Norman D. Dicks (Wash.), a top defense appropriator; and Harold E. Ford Jr., a candidate for Tennessee's open Senate seat, felt free to vote against the resolution. Ford was immediately attacked by the National Republican Senatorial Committee for what it called a vote to "cut and run."

"A few people are getting some backbone, and the backbone they're getting is from the people," said Paul, a longtime opponent of the war.

A Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll found that Zarqawi's death did not alter the perceptions of a majority, 53 percent, that the Iraq war is a mistake. Fifty-four percent of those polled said they would back a congressional candidate who favored pulling all U.S. troops out of Iraq within 12 months. Only 32 percent said they would vote against that position. "The public, in my estimation, has reached a firm, fixed decision about Iraq, and it comes down to 'Let's find a way to bring the troops home,' "said Peter Hart, who helped conduct the poll.

Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster with close ties to House Democrats, highlighted the complexities in public opinion. Some traditional Republican lines, such as the charge that Democrats "don't get what it's like in a post-9/11 world" or "We're bringing democracy to Iraq," are falling flat in focus groups, Lake said. But she said voters do respond well to a GOP favorite heard often in the past two days on Capitol Hill: "We'll either fight terrorists there or we'll fight them here."

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