Iraq war veteran to stand in congressional election

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The Independent US

The odds are stacked against Paul Hackett, who is contesting a sprawling district east of Cincinnati in the strongly Republican southern part of the state. Rob Portman, the former Congressmen who stepped down to become US Trade Representative, regularly won re-election with majorities of up to 75 per cent, and President Bush carried the district by a two to one margin in 2000 and 2004.

But Mr Hackett, who four months ago was a reservist Marines major in Iraq, has mounted a vigorous and well-financed campaign, in a contest that has something of the flavour and unpredictability of a British parliamentary by-election.

Republicans have been sufficiently uneasy to roll out some of their heaviest artillery to help his opponent Jean Schmidt, including Mr Bush, who recorded a telephone message, to get out the vote and shore up the resolve of wavering supporters.

Democrats have sent John Glenn, the popular former astronaut and former Ohio senator, to bolster Mr Hackett's efforts. The candidate is telegenic and outspoken. He has criticised Mr Bush's tax cuts, but on other domestic policies he sounds Republican, especially in his opposition to abortion and gun control.

But against Mr Bush's war he pulls no punches. Mr Hackett talks of the "son of a bitch in the White House" and has called the President a greater threat to US security than Osama bin Laden. He calls Mr Bush a "chicken-hawk" for avoiding service in Vietnam but pressing for war in Iraq.

The expectations are that Ms Schmidt, regarded as a competent candidate, will beat off the challenge. Even if she fails, the Republicans would still have a comfortable majority of some 20 seats in the 435-seat House.

But even a Republican victory with a sharply reduced majority would be portrayed by Democrats as a major rebuff to Mr Bush. Mr Hackett says if he loses, he will probably return to Iraq to do his duty, whatever his views of the war.

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