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MONDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Voters sent clear message: Change course in Iraq

Tuesday’s election returns give both political parties an incentive to change U.S. policy in Iraq.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll, conducted Wednesday through Saturday prior to the election, asked 1,205 adults nationwide what would be their single most important issue in voting for Congress this year. Iraq was No. 1 with 31 percent, followed by the economy at 21 percent, health care at 12 percent, terrorism at 11 percent and immigration at 9 percent.

A Newsweek poll, conducted Thursday and Friday before the election, asked essentially the same question of 1,045 registered voters and got nearly identical results: Iraq, 32 percent; the economy, 19 percent; terrorism, 12 percent; health care, 11 percent; and immigration, 10 percent.

This tells us that dissatisfaction with the Iraq war was a big reason the Democrats seized control of both houses of Congress from the Republicans.

Americans want a change. They disagree about what needs to be done — whether we should pull out U.S. troops fast, for example — but they are frustrated with the current state of affairs and don’t see it leading to any result that is worth the lives, injuries and other sacrifices being made.

President Bush apparently got the message. On the day after the election, he announced Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation. It may have been planned before Election Day, but the announcement’s timing obviously was designed to show that the administration is rethinking its war strategy.

The next elections are two years away. The full House of Representatives and a third of the Senate will be at stake as they are every two years, and the nation will elect a president to succeed Mr. Bush.

By that time, the Democrats will want to have shown that they accomplished something with their newfound power and that a Democrat could best lead the country from the White House. The Republicans, meanwhile, won’t want to have the war as an albatross that could cost them further seats in Congress and ruin their chance to keep control of the presidency.

The voters’ mandate is clear: Do something about Iraq, or there will be political consequences.

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