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Iraq War Remains Top Issue in Florida House Race

The coastal 22nd district in Florida is the setting for a midterm election battle, where Democratic challenger Ron Klein is using President Bush's handling of the Iraq war to his advantage against 26-year Republican congressman Clay Shaw.

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  • RADIO ANNOUNCER:

    97.9, WRMF…

  • RADIO ANNOUNCER:

    It's going to be a busy hour here before 9:00. We're going to be…

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    In Palm Beach, Florida, these days, the Mark Foley scandal permeates not just the news, but drive-time rock radio programs like "The Jennifer and Danny Show" and its parody commercials.

  • RADIO ANNOUNCER:

    Sitting at my computer all day really dries out my skin.

  • RADIO ANNOUNCER:

    Oil of Foley…

  • RADIO ANNOUNCER:

    My fingers are dry and cracked from all the instant messages and e-mails.

  • RADIO ANNOUNCER:

    Oil of Foley…

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    But Republicans here aren't laughing. They're worried the fallout from Foley and other GOP ethic scandals may cost them the disgraced former Florida lawmaker's seat and that of his congressional next-door neighbor, Clay Shaw.

    REP. CLAY SHAW (R), Florida: How are you? Good to see you.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Shaw came to Congress in the 1980 Reagan landslide. If he wins again, he could become chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, but right now the 67-year-old Shaw, like many of his Republican colleagues, finds himself in the fight of his political life. And he knows it.

  • REP. CLAY SHAW:

    The problem that the Foley matter has brought about is that it's taken the good work that we've done, the accomplishments that we've done, the good news in the economy and a lot of the progress that we've made in Iraq. It takes that off the front page so that it covers it up.

  • RON KLEIN, Democratic House Candidate:

    Hi, I'm State Senator Ron Klein.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Breathing down Shaw's neck is energetic, well-funded Democratic State Senator Ron Klein. He doesn't need to mention the Foley scandal in speeches or campaign ads. But when asked, he says it's a symbol of the failed GOP leadership in Washington.

  • RON KLEIN:

    Well, both parties may have bad apples, but the current scandals are mostly Republican scandals. Mr. Shaw is part of the leadership. He likes to talk about that all the time. He has to bear responsibility for the fact that Republican leadership has, in this case, may have been involved in a cover-up.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    The two men are battling over one of the most hotly contested districts in Florida, the beautiful, coastal 22nd. This mainly white, well-off district running along the water from Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale was carefully redrawn by the Republican state legislature five years ago to protect Congressman Shaw.

    So Republicans do outnumber Democrats, but these Republicans tend to be moderate. There are plenty of independents, and John Kerry beat George Bush here in 2004. All that made Clay Shaw a tempting target for Democrats this year.

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