- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Democrat Kweisi Mfume, who is campaigning to be the next U.S. senator from Maryland, put some space between himself and other candidates in the race by backing a Pennsylvania congressman’s call for an immediate pullout of troops from Iraq.

“We need to get our military personnel out of this mess on a date certain,” said Mr. Mfume, a former congressman and past president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

He called the war a “tragic fiasco” and said he backed Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. John P. Murtha’s proposal to start recalling troops now.

Nearly all of the other 10 candidates in the Maryland race support a troop withdrawal to varying degrees.

A recent poll by nonpartisan Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies showed 67 percent of Maryland voters disapprove of President Bush’s handling of the war.

Nationally, 63 percent disapprove of the war and 52 percent want the troops pulled out now or within 12 months, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.

The front-runners in the Senate race, Democrat Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin and Republican Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, both want to see an exit strategy from the Bush administration.

“I am not for an immediate withdrawal … because that is dangerous,” Mr. Steele said. “What I am interested in seeing and what I will fight for and what I will argue with the administration on is, ‘Give us the strategy. Give us the timetable that you think works best.’”

Mr. Cardin, who voted against going to war in Iraq and against the resolution Friday for an immediate troop withdrawal, has said he opposes an “open-ended commitment in Iraq.”

The U.S. House voted down an immediate withdrawal resolution on Friday, 403-3, with six voting “present.”

Mr. Mfume, who previously criticized Mr. Cardin for voting against an amendment in May by Rep. Lynn Woolsey, California Democrat, to withdraw the troops, refrained from faulting the congressman for his vote on Friday.

A Mfume campaign spokesman said the resolution was a “Republican ploy.”

The only candidate to voice unwavering support for Mr. Bush and the war is Anne Arundel County accountant Thomas J. Hampton, a Republican waging a long-shot campaign.

“We had some good reasons to go [to Iraq], and I do believe it is a deterrent to terrorism being there,” he said. “It is not time to pull up and pull out.”

Candidates with war stances similar to Mr. Cardin and Mr. Steele are Montgomery County forensic psychiatrist Lise Van Susteren, a Democrat, and Baltimore County businessman Corrogan R. Vaughn, a Republican.

Two of the contest’s other long-shot Democratic candidates, political activist A. Robert Kaufman and American University history professor Alan Lichtman, said they supported an immediate pullout.

Democrat Thomas B. McCaskill, a retired scientist for the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, advocates sending more troops to secure Iraq, but said he disagreed with the decision to go to war in the first place.

The remaining candidates, Republican Daniel Muffoletto of Howard County and Democrat Charles U. Smith of Baltimore, could not be reached for comment.

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