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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hussein Verdict Plays Role in U.S. Elections

TOPEKA, Kansas -- Citing an Iraqi court's verdict that former President Saddam Hussein was guilty of crimes against humanity, U.S. President George W. Bush told voters during a pre-election travel swing Sunday that their decisions could determine how the United States fights terrorism and the war in Iraq.

Democrats, meanwhile, used the verdict to remind voters that the administration's overall Iraq strategy was not working.

"The world is a better place without Saddam," said Tammy Duckworth, a U.S. Army veteran who lost both legs in Iraq and is now the Democratic candidate in a closely fought House race in Illinois.

But, she added, "I don't think this verdict means the administration has a plan for Iraq."

The war has emerged as a central pillar of Democrats' efforts to unseat Republicans across the country and regain majority control of the House of Representatives -- and even the Senate, once considered a long shot.

The news from Baghdad, announced 48 hours before election day, allowed Bush to offer a rare ray of optimism in a war that has become increasingly unpopular. He called the court's decision "a milestone in the Iraqi people's efforts to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law."

Asked whether the verdict had been announced to coincide with the final days before the election, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow called such speculation "preposterous" -- an assessment echoed by U.S. officials in Baghdad.

"I know everyone wants to read into this some sinister plot," said one U.S. official advising the Iraqi tribunal. "But it's just not there."

A midterm election poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press released Sunday found Republicans had cut into the Democratic lead in voting intentions. The Pew survey found a 47 percent to 43 percent Democratic lead among likely voters, down from 50 percent to 39 percent two weeks ago and a difference barely larger than the poll's margin of error.

Republicans acknowledge that the outlook is grim in the House of Representatives, where Democrats need a gain of 15 seats to regain control. Many analysts now predict Democratic gains of 12 to 30 seats or more.

The battle for control of the Senate hinges on whether Democrats can pick up six additional seats, and their effort to do so is providing the richest drama in the campaign's final hours.

Most analysts agree that control probably comes down to which candidate wins a few narrowly contested states. In Tennessee, late polls showed the Republican candidate, Bob Corker, continuing to build a lead over his Democratic opponent, Representative Harold Ford Jr.