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Bush or Kerry? In Baghdad, political passions run high

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Call them Baghdad Dads: If America's presidential election were held tomorrow, on Iraqi soil, working-class Iraqis would be the crucial swing vote.

"The Democratic party is just a party of slogans: they only call for freedom," says Muath Karra, an eyeglass salesman. "But George W. Bush, he is brave, and he is a man of action. I hope he wins this election, because he is a genius - and brave."

Muhammed Shammari, a taxi driver, is a Kerry man. "We want John Kerry to win, because George W. Bush brought harm to America and all the world under the pretext of launching the war on terror," he says. "And generally, the Democratic Party is better than Republicans."

Thousands of miles from Boston and New York, the American horse race plays out in Iraqi terms: strongmen and wimps, doers and talkers, rulers and technocrats. Kerry has the advantage: He didn't invade their country, which counts for a lot. But while Bush is generally hated, his tough-guy image plays well on the street. "John Kerry has a good heart; he was against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," says Haidar Abdullah, a young electrician. "But the truth is, I'm a George W. Bush supporter."

Bush has a fierce cadre of devoted followers, mainly among Shiites and Kurds who suffered under Saddam Hussein. They are the silent minority.

Abbas (not his real name) is one of them. Every morning as he's leaving the house he pauses by the door. "I put my faith in God," he says, according to Muslim tradition. Then he takes a little picture of George W. Bush out of his wallet, and kisses it.

"And then I put the picture of George W. Bush back in my wallet, so it will be like a prayer," says Abbas, a video store owner.

"I made a vow: that whoever saved me from Saddam, I will kiss him every morning," says Abbas, his craggy face cracking into a grin. "So believe me, I kiss George Bush every morning."


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