Republicans running for reelection are also running from Bush. A Reuters’ story this morning says, “For Republicans running for Congress in Democratic-leaning or swing districts in November, playing down their party label and playing up their independence has become a matter of political survival in a year when ‘Bush’ can be a dirty word.” The story cites two Connecticut Republicans, Chris Shays and Rob Simmons, who both highlight their differences with Bush and point out how well they work with Democrats. Other Republicans who are dancing away from their leader include Mike Fitzpatrick and Jim Gerlach in Pennsylvania, Heather Wilson in New Mexico, Clay Shaw in Florida, Anne Northup in Kentucky and Charles Bass in New Hampshire — all Republicans in districts carried by Kerry in 2004.
Another factor affecting this year’s election is how low Congress has sunk in the minds of all registered voters. Even Republicans only muster 38% approval of the job Congress is doing, and a mere 7% strongly approve. One-quarter of Independents and Democrats approve. What should be of great concern for Republicans is that the Cook/RT poll found that disapproval of Congress is a strong motivator to vote — which could send more Democrats and Independents to the polls in November than Republicans.
The President seems to have gotten a slight up-tick in his ratings with the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his recent visit to Iraq. In addition, Congressional Republicans are trying to pressure Democrats with today’s debate and vote on Iraq, but GOP leaders are going to prevent anyone who disagrees with the war from offering alternative resolutions, which could turn the entire debate into another Congressional circus.
There’s a lot that can happen between now and November, some of it out of politicians' control, some of it within their control. Expect to see them taking advantage of as much of the latter as possible.