The war in Iraq left few places more politically roiled last fall than Bucks County.
Prodded largely by dismay over the conflict, voters narrowly elected a Democrat - an Iraq war veteran - to the Eighth Congressional District seat for the first time in 16 years.
Since then, the issue that inspired Patrick Murphy to run has catapulted the freshman representative to center stage in the bitter debate on Capitol Hill.
Murphy again loomed large Wednesday, declaring that "enough is enough" in a floor speech before the House approved a spending bill tied to an Oct. 1 deadline to start withdrawing troops.
Back home, reaction again revealed a county divided. Most voters interviewed yesterday supported the notion of getting out, but legislating a deadline left some at odds. Many were oblivious to Murphy's stance, or his unique credentials to be a spokesman for Democratic opposition to the war: He is a former paratrooper and Army captain who served in Baghdad in 2003 and 2004 as a lawyer for the 82d Airborne Division.
"I totally approve. I'm very glad about the vote," said Sandra Teel Trainer, 69, of Doylestown Borough, where she was walking with a friend. "I know the president will veto it, but the message needs to get across that this is how the American people feel."
To others, such as Lisa Williams, 53, of Doylestown Township, the deadline sets the stage for a regrettable exit reminiscent of Vietnam.
"If you tell a soldier, 'We're leaving by December,' he's not going to be as willing to put his life on the line now," Williams said outside the Warrington Target store where she works. "Our guys should be allowed to stay over there and complete the mission that Bush sent them over to do without setting a timetable."
Lois Shaw, 55, a homemaker from Warminster, said that while "we should be getting out of there, yes, indeed," issues in Iraq were too complex for a deadline.
"I'm not sure what we should be doing," she said. "I agree we're in a big mess there, but now that we're there, I feel we need to stick it out."
Murphy said yesterday that voter feedback on his push for a withdrawal schedule had been overwhelmingly positive.
"At a St. Patrick's Day parade," he said, "I was literally stopped by about seven veterans who grabbed me by the arm and said, 'Just bring them home, Patrick.' "
Despite his growing stature nationally, Murphy remains an endangered species in his district. He unseated first-term Republican Mike Fitzpatrick by just 0.6 percent of the vote - among the narrowest margins in the nation - and Democratic operatives have said his seat is highly vulnerable in 2008.
The intensifying debate over Iraq should work to Murphy's advantage, said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College. Preelection polls found greater dissatisfaction with President Bush and the war among Bucks voters than in most of the state, Madonna said.
Since then, "the American people's attitude against the war has gotten even more negative," he said. Barring an economic collapse or another unforeseen catastrophe, he added, "I don't see how Iraq is not still the biggest issue" in 2008.
That bodes well for Murphy, who lost the overall vote in Bucks, but made up for it in the slivers of Philadelphia and Montgomery County in his district.
Many who said yesterday that they supported a troop withdrawal had not heard of Murphy's floor speech.
Anthony DeCrescio, 29, a Bensalem floor installer who sat out the November election, said he intended to vote next time because of his outrage over foreign policy.
"It's a waste of life, and it's time to go," he said. DeCrescio said he was unfamiliar with Murphy's position, however.
And some who back Bush on Iraq were keenly aware of Murphy's views, even if they didn't appreciate them.
"I think we should be moving in the direction of getting out, but not on a timetable, per se," said Bill Cochran, 67, a retired purchasing agent from Upper Southampton. Murphy, he said, "has done what he said he would do - and that's why I didn't vote for him."
Democratic congressional leaders, aware of Murphy's credentials, have given him the spotlight during recent House debates and allowed him to sum up the party's argument.
While Murphy appreciates that, he said, he remains focused on constituents.
"Ninety-five percent of my time is spent on local issues," he said, "yet 95 percent of our press has been on Iraq."