WASHINGTON – The division among Democrats over war with Iraq was on full display Monday at a President's Day forum for White House hopefuls in Iowa, home of the first presidential caucuses.
Little-known Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, an old-style liberal who is filing papers to enter the race Wednesday, continued his long-held refrain that President Bush wants to go to war to achieve his own personal glory.
"Every grade-school athlete knows the difference between defense and offense and America is about to go on the offensive in the world, for empire, for oil, but not for us," said Kucinich, one of the candidates who is farthest left.
"This war is wrong. It puts at risk the lives of American servicemen and women. It puts at risk the lives of innocent Iraqi citizens," he added.
Among the lesser-known and also left-leaning candidates were Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, civil rights activist Al Sharpton and recently joined contender former Illinois Sen. Carol Mosely Braun, who will bring the total number of candidates to eight when she formally files her exploratory papers on Wednesday.
"I intend to make the case that this war — the unilateral attempt — is not in our best interests as Americans," she said.
But the other half of the field, who each dwarf the more liberal hopefuls in opinion polls, back potential war and voted for the Iraq resolution in Congress.
Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri, who as House Democratic leader led the campaign for the resolution, is holding his official announcement rally Wednesday. Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., who led the campaign in the Senate, is among the most hawkish.
Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina are also on board, though they express doubts because a handful of other countries are opposed.
Among those still thinking about a White House run there is also considerable division.
Opposed to a war with Iraq are Florida Sen. Bob Graham and former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart. Former NATO Commander Wesley Clark, who Sunday announced that he has gotten a lot of requests encouraging him to run for office, said he wants more time.
Sens. Joe Biden of Delaware and Chris Dodd of Connecticut, both undecided on a run, voted for the war resolution.
When it comes to Bush's non-Iraq policies, Democrats are united and the growing number of liberals in the White House field has forced all of them to ramp up their rhetoric.
"We should never doubt this. This is the Bush recession. He owns it and we should hold him responsible for it," Edwards said in Iowa.
Just one problem with the assessment is that the United States is not in recession.
With the Democratic field growing so fast, it has become harder for each candidate to raise money or stand out.
Analysts add that another problem with such a large field is that divisions in the party become more visible. Add to that the crab-like clawing of the underdogs pulling down those rising to the top and a true battle may emerge for the heart of the party.
Fox News' Carl Cameron contributed to this report.