No free ride for war critics

Patrick O'Connor and Josh Kraushaar:

House Republican leaders and conservative activists are targeting critics of President Bush's plan to send more combat forces into Iraq -- and some GOP lawmakers are on the hit list.

Amid a mounting campaign in Congress to limit Bush's military options, conservatives led by talk show host Hugh Hewitt have created an advocacy group designed to counter the anti-war MoveOn.org. And its first round of targets will be the 17 GOP lawmakers who voted for last week's Democratic resolution in the House opposing the troop increases.

First in the sights of the new Victory Caucus is Rep. Ric Keller, R-Fla., whose district includes Orlando.

While Hewitt carries considerable sway among conservatives, the fledgling Victory Caucus starts out with little of the money and prominence of MoveOn.org, now nationally entrenched as a liberal interest group.

At the same time, House Republicans are hitting Democrats who represent districts Bush won in hopes of preventing a congressional majority that would restrict money for Afghanistan and Iraq. The GOP is flooding those districts with news releases and e-mails warning that Democrats are undermining U.S. troops.

Republicans claim the campaign already has paid off in South Dakota, where the Sioux Falls Argus Leader ran a column over the weekend highlighting how Democratic Rep. Stephanie Herseth is pinched between party leaders and conservative voters in the state.

"We will certainly expose any Democrat who promised to fund the troops in order to get elected who turns around and supports a slow-bleed strategy now that they're here and their leadership is calling the shots," said Jessica Boulanger, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

...

Hewitt is asking his listeners to identify any potential primary challengers to Keller who are supportive of the Iraq war and to commit funding to such a campaign. He also announced he would not be donating to the National Republican Congressional Committee because of its support for "White Flag Republicans."

Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol sounded a similar note on "Fox News Sunday."

"There's something called primaries we have in America, and there will be primary challenges in the Republican Party against some of those congressmen," Kristol said. "And they deserve to be primaried, because they are acting, I think, in a shameful way."

...

As a member of the Victory Caucus, I support this effort to make clear that there will be political consequences to voting against victory int his war. For too long the phonies in the anti war left have had a free ride. Americans do not want to lose this war no matter how dissatisfied they may be with the current results of the war.

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