Mark Kennedy continued Thursday to run toward the one topic most Republican candidates have been moving away from: Iraq.
His push to make Iraq more of an issue in the Minnesota race for U.S. Senate began this weekend, when Kennedy launched a new TV ad that proclaims, “Leaving Iraq now will create a breeding ground for new attacks on America.”
Kennedy ends the ad by saying: “I approve this message, even though I know it may not be what you want to hear.”
Thursday, Kennedy took another step and announced he would like to debate Iraq with his Democratic opponent, Amy Klobuchar.
“What is your plan for winning the war on terror?” he asked, rhetorically, at a morning news conference. “What is your plan for bringing home our troops in victory?”
Kennedy accused Klobuchar — whom he trails by double digits, according to polls — of not having a plan but simply stealing talking points from the national Democratic playbook.
Klobuchar has chided Kennedy for his support of the Bush administration’s war policy.
Earlier this month, on NBC’s Meet the Press, Klobuchar said, “We cannot, as Congressman Kennedy and the president are talking about, just stay the course indefinitely, with more troops dying, over $300 billion spent.”
Klobuchar, who also mentions Iraq in a new TV ad, has called for a gradual reduction of U.S. troops.
“This election is about all the sons and daughters of Minnesota, serving in Iraq, who deserve a change in course,” she says in the ad.
As for Kennedy's plan, he said Thursday he basically agrees with President Bush's call for “benchmarks,” including defeating militias in Iraq and further training for Iraqi troops.
But Kennedy did not saying anything about bringing home U.S. troops.
“I'm not going to set a timeline,” he said. “I'm not going to set a deadline.”
As for the debate offer, Klobuchar's campaign manager Ben Goldfarb released a statement saying, in part, “Congressman Kennedy's desperate political stunts and last-minute attack ads can't change the fact that Amy Klobuchar will do what he hasn’t: ask tough questions of the administration, demand accountability, and push for change.”
The DFL party chairman, Brian Melendez, also accused Kennedy of relying on "last-minute political tricks" because he is struggling to raise money.
The Kennedy campaign rejected that and said the new Iraq ad has, on the contrary, helped to bring in funds.
By Scott Goldberg, KARE 11 News
(Copyright 2006 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)