The leading Republican presidential primary candidates said on Sunday that the military escalation in Iraq appeared to be restoring stability, and they berated their Democratic counterparts for advocating an end to US involvement there.
Gathered for a debate in Des Moines, Iowa, the Republican field offered a clear contrast with Democrats who, in a debate the day before, declared the troop escalation a failure and advocated a withdrawal. Most of the Republicans pointed to some early evidence of success in Iraq in arguing that it would be a mistake to abandon the war.
"They are making progress, and we are winning on the ground," Senator John McCain said. "We must win. And we will not set a date for surrender, as the Democrats want us to do."
The debate, on the ABC news program This Week, highlighted differences among the candidates on the issues of health care, abortion rights, and spreading democracy around the world.
But the Republicans were more apt to attack Democrats than each other -- in particular Senator Barack Obama, for saying that he was willing to negotiate with leaders of hostile nations without any preconditions and that he would dispatch troops to Pakistan to search for terrorist camps if the Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf failed to take action.
Only one candidate, Representative Ron Paul, advocated a withdrawal, saying "We're losing this one. We shouldn't be there. We ought to just come home."