Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett, who gained popularity for his staunch criticism of President Bush, has dropped out of the Democratic race for U.S. Senate in Ohio, according to a published report.

Hackett told The New York Times for Tuesday's editions that the same party leaders who urged him to run for Senate after his political debut in a House race last year had turned on him.

"This is an extremely disappointing decision that I feel has been forced on me," Hackett said.

Hackett's spokesman, Karl Frisch, did not immediately return a phone call late Monday night.

Hackett captured Democrats' attention last summer by blasting Bush's war policies, raising huge sums on the Internet and capturing 48 percent of the vote in one of the country's most conservative House districts.

He declared his candidacy for Republican Mike DeWine's Senate seat after it appeared Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown would not run. Brown declared his Senate candidacy shortly after that, however, and national Democrats privately began urging Hackett to step aside. On Sunday, some national Democrats made those requests publicly.

"For me, this is a second betrayal," Hackett said. "First, my government misused and mismanaged the military in Iraq, and now my own party is afraid to support candidates like me."