- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 25, 2007

Congressional Republicans, still leery of an abrupt pullout from Iraq, are not swayed by out-of-state protesters bused in to criticize the lawmakers’ support of the war.

Republicans targeted by a blitz of ads and protests by Americans Against Escalation in Iraq (AAEI) say the effort is blatantly partisan because Democrats opposed to a withdrawal are not in the liberal protesters’ line of fire.

“My position is fundamentally the same as it was going into the [August] break,” said Rep. Michael N. Castle, Delaware Republican, who weathered protests outside his Wilmington district office, TV ads and a march by about 30 demonstrators on his home — although he was not there at the time.

“I never believed in setting a date for withdrawal,” Mr. Castle said, echoing others who await a mid-September progress report by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus to decide how to proceed with the war.

The Republicans’ resolve confounds the 10-week Iraq Summer campaign, a $12 million onslaught of TV, radio and billboard ads; picket-line protests; and petition drives paid for by AAEI, a coalition of liberal groups including MoveOn.org and Americans United for Change.

“It is obviously a partisan political organization,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican. “It kind of fizzled.”

Rep. Tom Latham, Iowa Republican, said a top Iraq Summer organizer in his district is a paid campaign staffer for his Democratic rival, Selden Spencer.

“A group like that is basically just political operatives,” he said.

The activists say they have more impact than the lawmakers admit, citing the July criticism of the war strategy by Republican Sens. Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico and George V. Voinovich of Ohio.

Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican and Iraq Summer target, Thursday called on President Bush to bring some troops home by Christmas.

He also said he would not support troop-withdrawal legislation because it is the president’s job as commander in chief to conduct the war.

The antiwar group also takes credit for decisions this month by two Republicans — Rep. Ray LaHood of Illinois and Rep. Deborah Pryce of Ohio — not to seek re-election.

Moira Mack, spokeswoman for AAEI, said the group’s 100 paid organizers work with local activists to pressure the Republicans. However, she said the campaign isn’t trying to unseat them unless they continue to back the war.

“The goal of the Iraq Summer campaign is to bring an end to the Iraq war, and we are doing that [by] breaking off the president’s support for his war,” Miss Mack said.

Mr. Domenici and Mr. Voinovich, who doubted the war strategy but still voted against pullout deadlines, say the group has not affected their stance.

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