Dean Says Democrats Will End Iraq Problem

July 29, 2006 — -- As he campaigned for Republicans running for Congress in West Virginia, President George W. Bush confidently predicted that his party will retain control of Congress -- but with his approval ratings mired in the 30s, gas prices topping $3, war spreading in the Middle East and Iraq in turmoil, some in the GOP are nervous.

"Realistic Republicans know the storm is coming," said Nathan Gonzales, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report. "The question is: How big is it going to be, and can they brace themselves enough to keep the majorities in the House and Senate?"

But even with the weakness of President Bush and his Republican allies on Capitol Hill, Democrats still face problems of perception among voters that could prevent them from taking advantage of the golden opportunity this year's elections afford. For instance, an ABC News poll taken last month found that 71 percent of Americans do not think the Democrats have a clear plan on what to do about Iraq.

Democratic leaders, however, say that they would bring an end to the U.S. presence in the war-torn nation.

"The first thing I think we would do is have a real strategy for how to get out of Iraq," said Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee and former presidential candidate, on ABC News' "Good Morning America Weekend Edition." "We don't need a president who says they're going to leave this to the next president. That's not leadership. It's the kind of thing that got us in there in the first place with no plan."

Although Dean said Democrats would do a better job with Iraq, the public now favors Republicans over Democrats in handling terrorism by seven percentage points, according to the ABC poll.

"We have an uphill climb," Dean said. "When you have the presidency, you can say almost anything and get on the news immediately. That's hard to do in a minority party. Today, for example, we are going to contact two million voters in a single day in every state of the country, they'll get a unified message on their door."

Dean said Democrats are going to ask each person they contact to contact 100 people -- one a day until the elections.

Democrats may have to work hard. They need to pick up 15 seats in the House and six in the Senate to regain power.

The key to that, many believe, is to make the midterm elections a referendum on President Bush's leadership.

"In history, almost all presidents have had a six year itch," said Larry Sabato, a professor at the University of Virginia. "The way things are going, Bush is going to need some tough actin' Tinactin to fight that itch."

Whatever happens to Congress in 2006 will almost certainly impact who wins the White House in 2008, and some analysts believe Republicans would do better by losing this year.

"If the Republicans hold both houses of Congress, it means they will have been in charge essentially for eight years," Sabato said. "That will increase the pressure for change in 2008."

Of course, Republican leaders aren't buying that. Their strategy is to run on local issues, to outspend Democrats and to take advantage of the fact the two men charged with leading democrats to victory, Dean and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill. -- leader Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- reportedly clashed over how to spend money for the 2006 Congressional campaigns.

"We work very well with the DCCC," Dean said. "I do think that's mostly inside-the-beltway gossip. What matters to the American people is not who speaks to who and that stuff."

ABC News' Geoff Morrell contributed to this report.