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Veteran quits race for Senate

Ohio Democrat pressured by party

WASHINGTON -- With a shove from party leaders, Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett abruptly quit a key Senate race in Ohio and further exposed a disconnect between the Democratic establishment and Internet-fueled challengers.

The political novice withdrew under intense pressure from party leaders in Washington, clearing the field for Representative Sherrod Brown -- a 30-year veteran of Democratic politics with more than $2.5 million in the bank.

Phil Singer, spokesman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said Hackett's decision to quit gives the party a better chance of beating two-term GOP Senator Mike DeWine in November. Hackett drew his strongest support from Democratic activists outside Washington and Ohio who donated money and time via the Internet, including many who considered his military record an asset against DeWine. ''Hackett would have probably won this seat," David Nir, one of three founders of the liberal website SwingStateProject.com, contended in a blog posting yesterday. ''It's much harder for me to envision the 'northeastern Ohio liberal' Sherrod Brown breaking the 49-percent barrier, particularly with DeWine moving to the center."

Not everyone agreed in the world of Weblogs, or blogs, but there was plenty of anger and many threatened not to help Brown. Matt Stoller, a leading voice on the liberal blog MyDD.com, said Hackett represented a failure by bloggers to compete.

''Establishment Democrats are still more powerful than we are, by orders of magnitude," Stoller wrote. ''While we can put tens of thousands into a race, they can dwarf that with millions."

Yesterday, soon after Hackett said he was quitting politics, the largest liberal Internet organization, MoveOn.org, notified its 3.3 million members of a new strategy: working to oust conservative Democratic incumbents.

Another grass-roots group that backed Hackett, Democratic war veterans, expressed outrage as well. ''Hackett brought credibility on the No. 1 issue facing the nation -- the war in Iraq," said Jon Soltz, an Iraq combat veteran and executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Political Action Committee. ''The Democratic Party loses credibility on that issue because he is no longer running, and because they had a hand in his decision."

Hackett's 11-month political career reached its zenith last summer when his campaign in a conservative Cincinnati-area district raised $850,000 in two months, $500,000 of it through blogs.

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