(CNSNews.com) - Egged on by Hollywood celebrities and former elected Democratic Party officials, anti-war protesters appear to outnumber, at least in the streets of America, those individuals supporting President Bush's policies on Iraq.
But a Feb. 21 poll conducted by Zogby International indicated that 54 percent of the American public supports the idea of going to war with Iraq.
Pollster John Zogby said he expects that number to climb to 58 percent following Bush's prime-time news conference Thursday night.
So why are anti-war protesters drawing much larger crowds and getting most of the media attention?
"Did you ever hear of the Silent Majority?" asked Lew Graves, a 63-year-old Vietnam veteran from Brunswick, Maine, who's organized a number of pro-Bush administration rallies.
The 'Silent Majority' reference cited by Graves was used by former President Richard M. Nixon in a Nov. 3, 1969, speech. During that address, Nixon labeled young people protesting that war as the "vocal minority," and he asked that "the great silent majority" of Americans speak up.
Graves considers himself to be part of a modern-day Silent Majority, but the pro-Bush rallies Graves helped organize in his home town the past two Saturdays drew only about 50 people in the first instance and a little more than a hundred March 1.
Graves blamed the low attendance on freezing rain and cold, but he admitted: "We weren't organized. We weren't out there in front when perhaps we should have been."
On the other end of the spectrum, thousands of school children and college students abandoned their classrooms Wednesday to protest the prospect of war in Iraq.
The youngsters were part of a national effort called "Books, Not Bombs," but Graves said he was unimpressed by their participation in the protests.
"Kids are fodder," said Graves. "Young kids know what they're told, by their teachers and by their parents."
One anti-war rally in Madison, Wisc., overwhelmed a much smaller group that had gathered at the state capitol to support Bush and the U.S. troops preparing for a possible invasion of Iraq.
Chris Lato, communications director for the Wisconsin Republican Party, tried to alert Republicans in the area to the pro-Bush rally, but he met with limited success.
"You have to hand it to...the peacenik crowd. They are well organized, certainly in a city like Madison," said Lato. "I mean, protesting in this city is like breathing for some people. It's just something that's done on a regular basis. Rarely a week goes by that people aren't protesting in Madison about something."
Lato described the Americans who support Bush as "folks who know their beliefs but don't feel the need to scream them from the rooftops."
However, Lato said he has received more messages lately from supporters of the president, wondering: "When are we going to have our voices heard; when are we going to do something?"
"I would say that we are seeing a real spike in the level of interest in folks wanting to get out and say: 'We support our troops, we support our president, and we support freeing Iraq,'" Lato said, adding that another pro-Bush rally would be held in Milwaukee Saturday. Thousands of people are expected, he said, including local talk-radio personalities.
However, International A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), one of the nation's largest anti-war groups, is using its website to advertise a March 15 "Emergency Convergence on the White House to Stop the War on Iraq."
The group said it expects tens of thousands to show up at the Washington Monument at noon for a rally and then march to the White House.
"The reason the anti-war movement is growing so fast is that the world recognizes the Bush Administration is not only planning to carry out an illegal, unprovoked assault, but also that it intends to use methods that constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity," the International A.N.S.W.E.R. website claims.
"Because of the intervention of the people," the group asserts, "the Bush administration has again been at least momentarily frustrated in its rush to war." Several calls seeking further comment from International A.N.S.W.E.R. spokesman Tony Murphy were not returned.
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