Feingold Addresses Voter Unrest Over Iraq

The Associated Press
Saturday, July 15, 2006; 11:14 PM

DUBUQUE, Iowa -- Voter unrest over the war in Iraq has elevated foreign policy issues to a rare level of importance in Democratic politics and is the top concern at the moment, potential presidential candidate Russ Feingold said Saturday.

"At the moment, it is probably the most defining issue," the Democratic senator from Wisconsin said. "Whether or not it will be in the middle of the election is not clear."

Feingold opened his second swing through Iowa, where precinct caucuses traditionally open the presidential nominating season, with a heavy schedule of events. They included meetings with activists and fundraising for candidates.

Feingold has been among the harshest critics of the war in Iraq and has urged a pullout of troops.

That stand separates him from other White House contenders in 2008 such as New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. She has been critical of the war, but is opposed to setting as timetable for pulling the troops out.

Feingold said voters are looking at politicians' positions on the war as a fundamental statement.

"It really suggests whether people have the judgment to make the right calls not only to fight terrorism but not make the kind of mistakes the Bush administration has made," Feingold said.

Feingold said Democrats traditionally focus more on domestic issues. Unrest over the war has changed that, he said.

"What will be different about this is that foreign policy and the whole international set of issues will be very important," Feingold said.

He added: "I don't think the election is going to be just a referendum on the war, but I think people are going to be looking for clear leadership in terms of getting us out of that situation."

© 2006 The Associated Press