WASHINGTON – The issue of whether to set a deadline to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq (search) is beginning to creep into the early stages of next year's midterm congressional elections.
Tennessee Democratic Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (search) began running a television ad last week, his first as a U.S. Senate candidate in 2006, a race he entered last month. The advertisement asks the question of whether it is time to start bringing troops home and plays off the public's impatience with U.S. involvement in Iraq.
"In war, there are no Democrats and Republicans, just Americans. I am Harold Ford Jr. and I approve this message because this Fourth of July I hope all of us will take a moment to remember those brave Americans fighting to make the world freer and America safer. Let's work hard to bring them home soon and with honor, and make them as proud of us as we are of them."
Polls show growing doubt about the U.S. mission in Iraq. A CBS News-New York Times poll released Thursday indicates a 51 percent majority of respondents think it would have been better for the United States to have stayed out of Iraq, compared to 45 percent who think taking military action there was the right thing to do. Sixty percent of respondents said things are going somewhat or very badly in Iraq.
With those opinions in mind, some in Congress are now demanding an exit strategy.
On Thursday, two Republican and two Democratic representatives pushed a non-binding resolution that would require an Iraq exit strategy by the end of this year with implementation beginning by October 2006.
"After 1,700 deaths, over 12,000 wounded and $200 billion spent, we believe it is time to have this debate and this discussion," said Rep. Walter Jones (search) of North Carolina, who was joined by fellow Republican Rep. Ron Paul (search) of Texas and Democratic Reps. Dennis Kucinich (search) of Ohio and Neil Abercrombie (search) of Hawaii, in offering the non-binding resolution.
On the House floor, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi pushed a separate amendment that would require President Bush to outline an Iraq exit strategy next month.
"The American people, particularly our troops who serve in harm's way, deserve better," Pelosi said.
On Sunday, Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., who made clear that he's running for president in 2008, accused the Bush administration of not telling Americans the truth about Iraq.
"I think the administration thinks they have to paint a rosy picture to keep the American people in the game and the exact opposite is happening," Biden said.
The White House has always insisted it will take time for Iraqi forces to be strong enough to take over their country's security. This weekend, Bush fired back at his critics who want a deadline for troop withdrawal. He said the United States will settle for "nothing less than victory."
"The terrorists know they cannot defeat our troops, so they seek to weaken our nation's resolve. They know there is no room for them in a free and democratic Middle East, so the terrorists and insurgents are trying to get us to retreat. Their goal is to get us to leave before Iraqis have had a chance to show the region what a government that is elected and truly accountable to its citizens can do for its people," Bush said in his Saturday weekly radio address.
The remarks are the start of a campaign by the president to explain his Iraq policy and what's at stake. Bush is meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari (search) in Washington this week and has planned a major address for June 28, the one-year anniversary of the transfer of sovereignty from the U.S.-led coalition to Iraqis. Bush also has scheduled a series of radio addresses and appearances outside Washington, including in Gleneagles, Scotland, in July, at the G8 Conference.
On Sunday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice addressed the question of why Americans should be patient with the mission in Iraq.
"I would say to the American people, yes, this is very hard and very difficult but we are making a lot of progess on what is going to be a strategic breakthrough for the United States, which is to have a different kind of Middle East," she said.
FOX News' Julie Kirtz contributed to this report.