The head of the GOP Senate campaigns on Sunday sought to deflect growing criticism about the war in Iraq, saying her party will prevail in Tuesday's elections partly because "Democrats appear to be content with losing" in Iraq.

Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., acknowledged that Republicans face a tight race to maintain control of the Senate, but that voters will focus more narrowly on local issues. Democrats need to take six seats to gain power in the 100-member Senate.

"It's no question it's a very tough cycle," said Dole, noting that midterm elections are historically rough for the same party as the president.

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On Iraq, she said: "We need to win the war, and it would be disastrous to lose."

"To pull out and withdraw is losing. The Democrats appear to be content with losing," she said.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., citing polls that show people increasingly are dissatisfied with President Bush's war policy, rejected the notion that Democrats wished to "lose the war."

"What Senator Dole is saying is outrageous," said Schumer, who heads the Democratic Senate campaign committee. "Democrats want to win the war, which is why we want to change the strategy."

He said if Democrats gain the majority in the Senate, they would push for new policies including withdrawing troops for deployment elsewhere and adding forces for counterterrorism such as pursuing Osama bin Laden.

"We're right on the edge on taking back the Senate," Schumer added. "We are feeling very good. ... This election has evolved into a national referendum on change."

White House press secretary Tony Snow said he was confident the Republicans would keep their majorities on Capitol Hill even though he said Democrats have been going after the president personally and driving down his approval ratings. "It has had an effect in the public opinion polls," Snow told a cable news channel.

But, he added, "You've got a lot of Democrats jeering on the sidelines. That's all they're doing. You got to ask yourself, if the war on terror is this important shouldn't they say precisely what they want to do?"

Last week, Richard Perle, a leading conservative proponent of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq said dysfunction within the Bush administration had turned U.S. policy there into a disaster.

Perle, who led a committee of Pentagon policy advisers early in the Bush administration, said he would not have advocated an invasion to depose Saddam Hussein if he had known how events would develop afterward.

Meanwhile, the Military Times Media Group, a Gannett Co. subsidiary that publishes Army Times and other military-oriented periodicals, said it was calling for Bush to fire Rumsfeld.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., who heads the House Democratic effort, said the growing criticism highlights Bush's failed policies and a need for a new direction. If House Democrats win the 15 seats needed to gain a majority, they will step up oversight of Bush's foreign policies, he said.

Dole acknowledged some discontent with Rumsfeld among several Republican congressional candidates who have called for him to step down. But Dole said she did not think a change in defense secretary was necessary.

"Candidates speak from their own views," Dole said.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., told a cable news network that Democrats want to redirect Bush's policies so the country is focused more on fighting terrorism.

"My plan would be to focus on getting Usama bin Laden and Al Qaeda ... and begin redeploying troops out of Iraq where they are fueling terrorists and return to fighting the war on terror," she said.

Appearing on the same show as Boxer, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he was worried that a premature U.S. withdrawal could create a political void amid the chaos that would allow radical Islam groups in the Middle East to gain more control.

"That would be a big victory for the terrorists," he said.

Dole, Emanuel and Schumer appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press."

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