A veteran of the Iraq war is running for Congress.

Paul Hackett, a Marine reservist who returned earlier this year from Iraq, is running in a special election next month for the House seat surrendered by Rob Portman (R-Ohio), now the U.S. trade representative.

Hackett, a Democrat who would be the first House member to have served in Iraq if elected, spent seven months there working as a civil affairs officer, an experience that has become the centerpiece of his uphill battle for the mostly Republican district.

"It allows me to advocate on behalf of all the troops that are over in Iraq and really give the straight scoop on what's going on over there. I don't need to go on a fact-finding mission to know the reality of what's going on in Iraq," Hackett said. "I view [this bid] as a natural extension of the service that I gave my country."

Republicans, who have nominated former state representative Jean Schmidt and who say Hackett, 43, is too liberal, like their odds in the Aug. 2 contest. In 2004, Portman won the Cincinnati-area seat by more than 40 percentage points. Hackett's first television ad reflects the area's conservative leanings. It features a clip of President Bush saying "there is no higher calling" than military service, photos from Hackett's tour and avoids any hint that the lawyer is a Democrat.

Hackett said in an interview that he opposed Bush's decision to go to war, calling it a "misuse of the military." But, he added: "We pride ourselves, in the Marine Corps, on being professionals, and when my country needs me, I'm happy to go." Hackett is scheduled to get some help today from one of his party's best-known veterans, when former senator Max Cleland (Ga.) joins him for a local campaign event.

Hackett said his unit is slated to return to Iraq sometime next year -- and that if he loses next month's election, he intends to join them. "My understanding is that we're scheduled to return in 2006," he said.

751 People Have One Word for Bush

If you had to describe President Bush with one word, what would it be?

According to a new survey, the most frequent response was "honest." The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press administered this political Rorschach test to 751 respondents who were asked to give their impressions of Bush in a single word.

Thirty-one said "honest," Pew announced this week. That was followed by a range of often colorful terms that the research group said reflects the public's deeply divided opinion about Bush. "Incompetent" came in second, with 26 votes. "Arrogant" was third with 24, followed by "good" (18), "integrity" (18), "determined" (15), "liar" (13), "stupid" (12), "idiot" (11) and "strong" (11). The rest of the list ranged from "weasel" to "honorable" to "con artist" to "president" to "terrific."

Overall, the impressions were slightly more negative than positive, with 40 percent using words Pew interpreted as derogatory toward Bush and 36 percent using ones it classified as favorable. Twelve percent were neutral. The remainder did not answer or said they did not know. The numbers are about the same as those in the Pew survey in February.

"It's another measure of the strong feelings he evokes -- I think you get that from the words people use," said Pew editor Carroll Doherty. "You see some measure of the polarization."