Republicans are feeling the heat. From the LA Times:
Republicans say they hope passion about the Iraq war will cool by the time 2008 ballots are cast. But they acknowledge that if the election were held tomorrow, the war would be a ball and chain around the GOP ankle.
The party was hobbled by antiwar sentiment in the 2006 midterm election, when Republicans lost control of Congress. If the politics of the war do not change, Republicans fear, their hope of regaining control of Congress in 2008 will not be realized.
"Do we hope Iraq is not an issue by election day? Sure," said Rebecca Fisher, spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "But can we guess where we will be next year? No way."
The political fallout from the Iraq debate is hard to gauge, analysts say, because it will hinge in large part on uncertain developments in the war and whether Bush changes course.
That is why more Republican senators, after standing by Bush for years, are now trying to reshape policy well before election day arrives. Last week's Senate debate on defense policy featured a who's who of Republicans facing reelection in 2008 signing on to proposals designed to signal their dissatisfaction with the course of the war.
"If the politics of the war do not change..." Yeah. "The political fallout from the Iraq debate is hard to gauge, analysts say, because it will hinge in large part on uncertain developments in the war and whether Bush changes course." Sure.
What the press simply won't write is that Iraq is not going to get better, and there's zero chance Bush will change course without being forced to. Somehow in the "he said, she said" style of the New Journalism, Bush's stubborn insistance on leading the the country over a cliff is portrayed as 'resolute' as opposed to stubborn to the point of simple-mindedness (there is no Plan B, Bush has no intention of changing course, and these statements have been repeatedly made by the WH to a disbelieving press who can't fathom that Bush actually means what he says. How often the press has failed us for that very reason! What he says is unreasonable but he's never called on it).
As noted, signing on to Lugar and Warner's amendment gets us nowhere. There's no teeth in the amendment. However, it does embarrass the WH to have to be told to get your head of wherever it's been placed and rejoin the reality-based community.
The fact that so few Republicans have been willing to endorse a firm deadline means they will continue to be exposed to criticism from Democrats and from constituents weary of the war. Some Republican strategists worry that no matter what lawmakers do now, the issue will leave some Republican incumbents vulnerable.
"There will be races that will be more competitive in places you don't expect," said a senior advisor to one Republican facing a tough reelection contest. "Fifteen months is a lifetime in politics, it's true. But questions like this war don't go away quickly. This has been three years coming. I don't think it goes away in a New York minute."
John McCain banked on the war to spearhead his drive for the WH. The result?
However, you can also count on Bush to assume he can't go any lower, and with good reason (Charles Franklin writing at pollster.com):
The question is whether Republicans are yet willing to reduce their support for President Bush still further. Republican Senators have begun a series of breaks with the President over Iraq policy and could signal to the grass roots that it is time for an end to unconditional support for Bush. On the other hand, Republicans in the House have retained their unity in support of the President's Iraq policy and so far Republican presidential candidates have refused to repudiate the President. With the divisive immigration bill behind him Bush may be able to sustain a new plateau in partisan support leading to a flattening out of his approval trend.
That assumes independents, or at least 20-25% of them, will also stay on board.
That's why Bush won't change course unless forced, why the August recess is so important, and why R congress critters are not likely to bolt until the get home and hear what the country is really saying.
Follow the news, but keep your expectations realistic. Anything that happens now to advance the discussion is a bonus and worth going for. But when the press writes that this amendment 'failed' or that attempt 'did not succeed' put it in perspective. The Administration is losing support everywhere; it just takes time to work its way to DC.