The war, the vote and the Republicans' priorities

The House approves a timetable for withdrawal. The RNC asks about Clinton's accent, Edwards' hair.

Published April 26, 2007 1:01PM (EDT)

Seventy-nine days of White House name-calling, disaster predicting and general-purpose caterwauling later, the House of Representatives gave final approval Wednesday night to an "emergency" supplemental war spending bill that would require the president to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq by Oct. 1. The vote was 218-208, with two Republicans voting yes and 13 Democrats voting no.

The Senate is expected to pass the bill today, which would put it on the president's desk early next week -- a fitting way, if ever there was one, to mark the fourth anniversary of the president's appearance on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. That would be the one in which he stood in front of a "Mission Accomplished" banner produced by the White House, the one in which he declared: "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."

That was May 1, 2003, and 3,194 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq since then.

We'll be thinking about those soldiers as we watch the Democratic presidential candidates debate tonight in South Carolina. With the House and Senate votes fresh in their minds -- with the president's promised veto just over the horizon -- the candidates shouldn't have any trouble focusing on how we got where we are in Iraq and where we're going to go from here. It's the issue, more than any other, on which the American people want them to be focused: In a CBS News poll taken earlier this month, 36 percent of Americans said the Iraq war is the most important issue facing our country -- four times the number who chose the next closest contender.

Iraq is Subject A, but it's also Subject B, Subject C and Subject D. Unless you're the Republican National Committee, of course. We've just received the RNC's "W2W4" for tonight's debate. That's "What to Watch For" to you and me, and here's the sum total -- we swear -- of the issues that the RNC says voters should be monitoring as the Democrats meet in South Carolina:

1. Will Sen. Hillary Clinton Adopt Her "Southern Drawl" for Her Debate In South Carolina?

2. Will Former Sen. John Edwards Show Up With a New Makeover?

3. What Part of His Resume Will Sen. Barack Obama Exaggerate?

4. Will Gov. Bill Richardson Arrive at Debate on a Horse, Helicopter, or Corporate Jet?

5. Will Sen. Joe Biden Proclaim That He Is a "Northeast Liberal" ... Again?

6. Will Sen. Chris Dodd Be Asked to Show Identification Before Being Allowed on Stage?

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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