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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tony Blair Gains Steam at Campaign's Midpoint

LONDON -- Britain's election campaign reached the halfway mark this week, with all the evidence suggesting that Prime Minister Tony Blair is well ahead and extending his lead.

Polls show that after two weeks of campaigning, Blair's Conservative opponents have not made anything like the popular breakthrough they need to deprive him of a third term in power.

Neither the Conservatives nor the Liberal Democrats, Britain's third party, seem to have benefited significantly from their opposition to the Iraq war.

Blair stood by his decision to support the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq during a 30-minute interview with BBC television broadcast Wednesday.

"If you want me to apologize for the war in Iraq, I am afraid I cannot say that I am sorry we removed Saddam Hussein," Blair said. "It was a hard decision. I took the decision I thought was right."

Polls show Britons view Blair himself with little enthusiasm but prefer his center-left Labour party to its opponents.

When the election was called last month, the major polling organizations gave Labour a lead of 0 to 7 percentage points over the Conservatives.

Now those same groups put Labour 3 to 9 points ahead.

Even the lower forecasts, if repeated on May 5 election day, would give Blair a sizeable parliamentary majority because of the way Britain's electoral map now favors the ruling party.

At the upper end, Blair would secure a third successive landslide victory and condemn the party that governed Britain for most of the 20th century to a political wilderness where it will surely have to remodel itself as Labour did in the 1990s.

"Labour has so far held off the Conservative challenge," said John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University. "The Conservatives continue to flat-line ... while the Liberal Democrats are no more than holding their own."

Blair was given a further boost Wednesday when the Sun, Britain's top-selling daily newspaper, said it backed him for re-election. The Sun traditionally wields power in British elections because of its high circulation of more than 3 million copies per day.