The Democratic presidential race is starting to hinge on the question of who really is in the driver's seat when it comes to setting a new course in Iraq.
On the surface, there wouldn't appear to be much disagreement about what Democratic contenders think should happen next.
All of them, from the "top tier" on down, say they want U.S. troops to start coming home — and soon — so the next president isn't saddled with the predecessor's quagmire.
But there's a growing rift between current congressional office-holders and the candidates from outside Washington, D.C., about whether the Democratically controlled Congress is doing enough to force President Bush's hand.
President Bush drew sporadic, startling criticism Tuesday night from Republican White House hopefuls unhappy with his handling of the Iraq war, his diplomatic style and his approach to immigration.
"I would certainly not send him to the United Nations" to represent the United States, said Tommy Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor and one-time member of Bush's Cabinet, midway through a spirited campaign debate.
Duncan Hunter says he starts his daily quests for media exposure doing interviews at "Oh-dark thirty." Joe Biden says his one disadvantage is being unable to hire his own plane. And Mike Gravel says he's relying on a proverb, "Work hard and be lucky."
The three men and a cluster of others have a common tie â€” all are running for president but are mired in the low, single-digit depths of early national surveys of public support. Yet all are stubbornly sticking to it, at least for now, as they await something â€” anything â€” that might vault them into contention.
In a rare public discussion of her husband's infidelity, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday that she probably could not have gotten through her marital troubles without relying on her faith in God.
Clinton stood by her actions in the aftermath of former President Clinton's admission that he had an affair, including presumably her decision to stay in the marriage.
The Democratic presidential front-runners came under attack from a rival on Sunday for showing insufficient leadership on ending the war in Iraq in a debate in which the main target was President George W. Bush.
The two-hour exchange in the election proving ground of New Hampshire came 17 months before the November 2008 presidential election and featured squabbling and sharp attacks on Bush's war policy, but not much agreement on the best way to get the United States out of Iraq.
Iowa's religious conservatives, a powerful force in Republican presidential politics for two decades, could be kingmakers again in 2008 — but it is unclear which candidate will win their support.
Like many social conservatives around the United States, where religion plays a major role in politics, Christian activists in Iowa have doubts about the top Republican presidential contenders and have yet to rally around a candidate.
But the crucial role played by Iowa, the state that kicks off the White House race with the first nominating contest scheduled for January 2008, makes the state's religious conservatives particularly influential.
Joe Biden on Friday questioned how his Democratic presidential rivals could skip a debate involving the Congressional Black Caucus.
The Delaware senator, who will participate in a New Hampshire debate on Sunday, is one of two candidates signed onto a fall debate on Fox News and the sole person who has agreed to an Iraq-only debate next week.
Fred Thompson, a Hollywood actor turned White House contender, had a reputation while a U.S. senator of being frustrated with the slow-moving legislative process and preferring dining with friends to late-night congressional sessions.
But the 64-year-old Republican, who retired from the Senate in 2003 after serving eight years, was also seen as a charismatic speaker who exuded confidence, battled government waste and abuse and backed campaign finance reform.
In Nevada, a state of mostly desert, Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama is quickly nurturing a grass-roots campaign, with a rally on Thursday showing such efforts are generating enthusiasm.
More than 3,500 people filled a Reno park to hear the 45-year-old senator from Illinois. At a press conference after the rally, he talked about the importance of attracting ordinary voters back into the political process.
"My campaign is bringing in new people. It is galvanizing people," Obama said.
Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards on Thursday called for a federal investigation into possible antitrust violations by the oil industry and criticized oil companies for raising gas prices.
"There's absolutely no justification for the gas companies to be as profitable as they are and have the taxpayers subsidizing the industry," Edwards said.