Rove says Republicans should embrace Iraq war

White House adviser Karl Rove said Monday that Republicans facing midterm elections should campaign on the economy’s strength and discuss the war in Iraq with no qualms.

“We have no excuses to make for it,” Rove said during a fundraising dinner for New Hampshire Republicans. War supporters need not apologize for removing the threat of Saddam Hussein, and with so much work left to do, now is not the time to talk about leaving Iraq, he said.

Rove said Democrats pushing for the withdrawal of American troops should be the ones facing tough questions for wanting to “cut and run.” He targeted Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha, both Democrats and vocal supporters of getting out of Iraq.

“They are profoundly wrong,” he said.

More than 400 people paid $100 to have dinner and hear Rove rally the faithful to work to retain Republican dominance in a state now viewed as a swing state in presidential elections. Dinner and a private reception with Rove cost $250.

Democrats won New Hampshire in three of the last four presidential elections – only narrowly losing in 2000. Also, Democrats have won four of the last five gubernatorial elections.

The shift at the top has raised hopes among Democrats and concerns among Republicans about eventual parity in the state House and Senate – long Republican bastions.

Some are concerned President Bush’s poor approval ratings will hurt Republicans in state races this fall.

At an event last month, Rove blamed the war in Iraq for hurting Bush’s job approval ratings in national polls. Rove said people like Bush but don’t like the war.

About two dozen to three dozen protesters gathered Monday across the street from the Center of New Hampshire, where the event was being held. Democratic protesters said New Hampshire Republicans needed a big draw like Rove to help pay legal fees in a phone jamming case. Three GOP officials have been convicted of charges stemming from the jamming of Democratic get-out-the-vote lines on Election Day 2002.

“Americans don’t like cheaters, these people cheated,” said Herb Moyer, 60, a Democrat from Exeter. The sign he carried read, “Karl Rove and New Hampshire GOP: Where criminals congregate.”

State Democrats have sued Republicans, partly to try to force disclosure of who among national GOP officials might have had knowledge of the plot. Republicans insist the operation was strictly local.

State GOP Chairman Wayne Semprini said Friday the party will use half or more of Monday’s proceeds to help candidates this fall. The rest of the money will pay for operating expenses, including legal fees racked up defending the Democratic lawsuit.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press

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