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Liberal group previews tactics

From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
VoteVets.org has a Web video hitting McCain on Iraq and tries to tie it to the economy. It features an Iraq veteran, who had a child after she came back and says, "John McCain said that it would be okay with him if the US spent the next 1,000 years in Iraq. A thousand years? That's some commitment to the Iraqi people, Senator McCain."

"This is my little boy," she says, holding her child. "He was born after I came back from Iraq. What commitment are you making to him? How about 1,000 years of affordable health care? Or a thousand years of keeping America safe? Can we afford that for my child, Senator McCain? Or have you already promised to spend trillions of our dollars... in Baghdad?"
The group says it will run on Washington, DC-area cable. But this is part of a larger effort by a consortium of liberal groups, joined today in a conference call with reporters by John and Elizabeth Edwards, against not just McCain but also targeted Republicans.

Leaders of the group -- consisting of the Center for American Progress, USAction, MoveOn.org, the SEIU, VoteVets.org and Americans United for Change -- say it will pour in more than $20 million -- for ads and on-the-ground organization -- to draw links between Iraq and a struggling U.S. economy between now and November.

"It's clear the crumbling economy is at center of people's minds," said Eli Pariser, head of MoveOn.org. "We're close to a recession, yet [the U.S. has spent] $500 billion in Iraq." He said that money should have gone to those affected by housing foreclosure crisis or toward affordable health care.

"We will focus on those legislators who stand in our way," Pariser added. The group's "top-tier" targets, he said, are four senators -- Maine's Susan Collins, New Hampshire John Sununu, Minnesota's Norm Coleman, and Kentucky's Mitch McConnell.

"There is great concern, anxiety, and angst about economic security," Edwards said on the call. "All of these things are made worse by the war in Iraq." He added that while he was on the trail, he found that "People don't understand why we're spending $500 billion and counting at the same time we have 47 million without healthcare, 37 million living in poverty…. It doesn't make sense to them…. John McCain has made it very clear; he intends to go along with the same exact policy as George Bush."

Elizabeth Edwards had this message for voters. "If the economy is your No. 1 issue, then the war is your No. 1 issue."

She also lamented the role the press has played in not drawing more connections between issues like the war and the economy.

John Soltz, head of VoteVets.org, gave a preview of what the group's tactics against McCain will be in the fall. "We're going to continue to target Sen. McCain between now and the election," Soltz said, adding. "We're not going to disparage his service…. He served with honor, but when it comes to his policy on Iraq, he is no different than George W. Bush."

*** UPDATE *** The RNC sends along this response: "The fact that Obama and Clinton refuse to denounce the groups they are now poised to benefit from -- and only object when it's convenient -- is indicative of their weak leadership when making difficult choices. It is moments like these that highlight Barack Obama's inexperience and why voters don't trust Senator Clinton."