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Rove urges U.S. Republicans to campaign on economy

Written by: Staff
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MANCHESTER, New Hampshire, June 12 (Reuters) Republicans should campaign on US economic strength and the war in Iraq as they gear up for the November election, President George W Bush's political adviser Karl Rove urged today.

''We have the strongest economy of any major industrialised country in the world,'' Rove yesterday told about 400 Republicans at a fund-raising dinner in New Hampshire.

Republicans in Congress have sought to limit debate on the Iraq war, which has contributed heavily to Bush's slumping approval ratings and threatened to damage Republicans when voters decide the balance of power in Congress in November.

The US economy surged 5.3 per cent in the first three months of 2006, its fastest pace in 2-1/2 years, but there have been signs it may be cooling amid concern over inflation.

Rove, one of Washington's most powerful and polarising figures who is under investigation in the leak of a CIA covert operative's name, chided Democrats for floating the idea of troop reductions in Iraq.

He specifically targeted Massachusetts Sen John Kerry and Pennsylvania Rep John Murtha.

''Like too many Democrats it strikes me they are ready to give the green light to go to war, but when it gets tough, they fall back of that party's old platform of cutting and running.

They may be with you for the first few bullets but they won't be there for the last tough battles,'' he said.

Republicans in the US House of Representatives yesterday introduced a resolution they said would be the springboard for a debate on the war. Democrats decried it for dealing broadly with the war on terrorism instead focusing on Iraq.

But with Bush buoyed by the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al Qaeda's chief in Iraq, and the filling of two key positions in Iraq's new government, the Senate is also expected to tangle over the war this week and next as it considers a defense policy bill.

Party officials estimate the fundraiser brought in 60,000 dollars.

expected to help pay legal bills for a Republican scandal over a phone-jamming scheme designed to keep New Hampshire Democrats from voting in a 2002 election.

The case led to the conviction of three Republican party officials and seriously squeezed the state party's finances.

New Hampshire is one of a handful of ''purple states'' -- which neither Republicans nor Democrats can confidently count as their own. Republicans also face a tough fight to unseat popular incumbent Democratic Governor John Lynch in November.

Political consultant Rich Killion, who paid 250 dollars to meet Rove, said the event began a new chapter for the state party.

''There was no pounding the rostrum. It was really direct talk right now, this is what the president has done...it was more of a rallying call ... this is why we fought so hard in the last election. This is why we have to fight again,'' he said.

People who attended just to listen to Rove paid 100 dollars each.

REUTERS KD DS1040

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