Ohio Senate Candidates Spar Over Iraq

Rivals in Ohio's Senate race, one of the closest in the country, argued Sunday about what has gone wrong in Iraq and how to improve the situation as they held their first televised debate.

Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown, who voted against giving President Bush the authority to go to war in 2003, seized on the recent disclosure of a secret intelligence report and new books saying the war has increased terrorist threats.

Brown accused GOP Sen. Mike DeWine of backing the status quo in Iraq and failing, as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to hold the Bush administration accountable.

DeWine distanced himself from Bush's comments last week that Democrats had become the "party of cut-and-run," asserting he did not know what that statement meant. DeWine said there would not have been a vote for war in 2003 if intelligence about the threat from Iraq's suspected weapons of mass destruction had been accurate.

The two-term senator also the U.S. should not put a "date certain" on a withdrawal of troops from Iraq, but should pull out as soon as Iraqi security forces are able to control the violence.

Brown said he would like to see a plan to pull troops out of Iraq in the next year and a half to two years.

DeWine took issue with Brown's contention that he had done more than the senator to help U.S. troops get proper body armor. "You are absolutely unbelievable," DeWine interrupted during the debate on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Democrats need to gain six seats on Nov. 7 to capture control of the 100-member Senate.

Republicans recently began television ads highlighting the congressman's vote against a 2003 spending bill for Iraq, which included funds for armor and other equipment. Brown said he opposed the $87 billion measure because it gave no-bid contracts to favored companies.

Similar exchanges plagued the rest of the debate. Moderator Tim Russert had to shout "time out" several times to stop the candidates