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Gary Younge
A joke of a debate on Iraq

Did John Kerry trash the troops or is George Bush stupid? As the month that saw the highest level of US casualties in Iraq for almost two years drew to a close, such was the level of debate among the American political class.

The only "botched joke" in all this is the sorry state of discussion about such a crucial issue at such a crucial time.

This latest poll in the New York Times suggests that Americans want more answers and have a good idea where the blame lies even if not the solution.

Violence in the Gulf is the dominant thread running through the election. But it seems as though venality closer to home could have at least as great an effect. Corruption has not emerged as a huge issue nationally, although it does provide the mood music for anti-incumbency sentiments.

Nonetheless in local races, from New York to California via Ohio and Florida - just to mention a few - it could cost the Republicans enough seats to lose them the House all by themselves.

There is little in the way of momentum in these elections. The Democrats are not so much on a roll as a slight incline. As Republicans stop giving money to doomed candidates in some areas and start ploughing more into newly vulnerable ones.

In other areas like Idaho and Wyoming it is clear that things are surely but slowly sliding away from them in the final days of the race.

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