Iraq Debate Demonstrates Democratic Divide

Hawks, pro-war statesman, and doves, anti-war diplomats, are fighting for dominance in the Democratic Party.

During Senate debate over a resolution to give President Bush power to use force, if necessary, to get Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to disarm, the push for pre-eminence was apparent.

"The danger is here, it is clear and present and it is now," said Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, a potential presidential candidate in 2004.

"How many fathers will see their sons, will see their daughters possible die in a foreign land?" asked Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, the 84-year-old president pro tempore of the body.

With voters deciding which party will control Congress during potential war and for the second half of Bush's first term, the party's split could mean trouble.

The two Democratic congressional leaders -- both eyeing presidential bids in 2004 -- further illustrate the dilemma.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota blasted the president's rhetoric and dragged his feet for months, only to signal his support minutes before a crucial vote in the Senate.

On the other hand, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri has consistently been a prominent Bush backer and hawk on Iraq.

Most House Democrats voted against the resolution authorizing the president to use force against Iraq, and fewer voted for it than voted for the Gulf War 10 years ago. Some analysts say it's because Gephardt, who co-authored the resolution, told party members to vote their conscience, leaving doves like second-in-command Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California to lobby heavily against the measure.

Another illustration of the Democratic dilemma is seen in the face-off between Lieberman, who ran as vice president for the Democrats in 2000, and former Vice President Al Gore, who chose Lieberman as his running mate.

Gore has been a leading critic of the Bush Iraq policy. Lieberman actually sponsored the Iraq resolution in the Senate.

The juxtaposition of positions on Iraq by the Democratic leadership means voters will have a challenge in November keeping the majority in the Senate and putting Democrats on top in the House.

"Its voter base is split on this issue of Iraq, its fund-raiser base is split on Iraq, and that makes rallying core Democrats, getting out the vote and getting attention tougher," said election analyst Michael Barone, a senior writer at U.S. News & World Report.

So who's the real Democrat -- Reps. Dave Bonior of Michigan and Jim McDermott of Washington, who have grabbed headlines by visiting Baghdad and criticizing Bush? Or Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, who's been in the spotlight for joining with Republicans in accusing Daschle and others of blocking passage of a homeland security department?

It could be that the Democrats are serving their constituents exactly how they see fit. In this first controversial vote since redistricting, many Democrats are in safer, more liberal districts and were able to vote against the president.

It could also be that the White House has created a rift, not because it tried to get between Democrats, but because it didn't do enough to woo Democratic support.

Of course, none of this would be a problem for Democrats if Iraq weren't in the spotlight.

If Democrats could focus on the economy, where polls indicate Republicans are vulnerable, they could be in a position of strength on Nov. 6, the day after Election Day, but so far the war on terror has all but drowned out domestic issues.

Fox News' Carl Cameron contributed to this report.