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First glance

From NBC's Mark Murray
Has any other event dominated modern American politics longer than the Iraq war? The Cold War perhaps, but that was more a series of global events than a singular one. There was the Lewinsky affair and its aftermath, but that lasted less than three years -- from January 1998 to the 2000 presidential election. And there's 9/11, but its political impact hasn't been the same since 2004.

By comparison, the Iraq war -- which turns four years old today -- and its influence on politics has lasted since 2002. The build-up to it left its imprint on that year's midterms (to the GOP's benefit); it overshadowed the Bush-Kerry race (which Bush won); it certainly dominated last year's elections (which allowed Democrats to regain control of Congress); and it remains issue No. 1 as we head into 2008.

The war also has spawned numerous secondary stories and dramas: Cindy Sheehan, the CIA leak investigation, our obsession over the war authorization votes, Bush's sinking political fortunes, Donald Rumsfeld's ouster, and America's relationships in the Middle East and the rest of the world.

Perhaps the biggest question remaining is how long the Iraq war lasts and what the political map looks like when it finally ends.