WASHINGTON – While the liberal wing of the Democratic Party hasn't been shy about opposing the war in Iraq, others within the party have begun to question whether that stance is politically wise.
Democrats all say they back the U.S.-led coalition troops, but that's not the same as backing the war. On Thursday, as the war entered week three, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., exposed how deep the rift in her party is, making an unapologetic renewal of her opposition to war.
"I said then and I say now that I was not convinced that the use of force at this time was the best way to disarm Iraq," Pelosi said.
Pelosi is not alone. Several of the presidential candidates and many in Congress oppose the war and even criticize fellow Democrats who support it.
But with polls suggesting that as much as 80 percent of the public strongly backs military action in Iraq, some Democrats are increasingly worried that the anti-war sentiment will backfire against the party.
"If a minority of our party can create doubts among the American people about our ability and our willingness to defend the country and keep it safe, we will be in trouble as a party, period," said Al From, president of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council.
From told Fox News he fears that anti-war liberals may restore a 1970s-era image of the party as weak, just when it needs to appear strong in the wake of Sept. 11.
"I don't care if it's an old image or a new image that says we're not strong enough to promote America's interests in the world. If that's the case, it's a bad image," From said.
But some call opposition their patriotic duty. Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and other presidential candidates like former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean make no apologies for their opposition.
And lawmakers like Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., who voted to use force last year, but was a vocal critic of war until it started, illustrates his party's dilemma.
Two days before the bombing began, referring to the United Nations' failure to reach a second resolution for war, Daschle said he was "saddened that the president's failure of diplomacy forced us into war."
Daschle took a political beating for the remark and since apologized, acknowledging that the administration has recruited international support, just not as much as he would have liked.
"I salute those in the streets who are protesting the war. That is their democratic right," she said.
But with U.S. victory nearly at hand and more and more Iraqis coming out to welcome their liberators, From said he fears that Democrats could look out of step with the American public.
Fox News' Carl Cameron contributed to this report.