From Roberto's Restaurant in St. Louis to Great Grains lunch counter in Montana, 'tis the season for the grip and grin. Candidates for House and Senate are going door-to-door and stump-to-stump in the final weeks before Nov. 7 midterm elections now too close to call. Republicans, having watched their leads evaporate, have shifted from hang tough to hang on. Both the House and the Senate face Democratic seizure.
To hold onto their majorities, national GOP strategists are abandoning longstanding incumbents to focus party resources on a handful of tight races they hope are winnable. Once-promising campaigns for Conrad Burns of Montana, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, and Mike DeWine of Ohio will need plenty in their own coffers to make it to the finish line. In the House, 10 of the dozen or so closest races feature embattled Republican incumbents. Meanwhile, Democrats seeking reelection face only a tiny number of serious challenges.
A poor national approval rating for President Bush, growing concerns over the war in Iraq, and the recent exposure of Mark Foley's scandalous advances toward congressional pages combine to explain much of the GOP's slide toward potential collective defeat. If the race card and abortion card are old, at least one newer card is in play: the religion card. Suddenly Democrats are values voters, too. And if religious-minded voters won't switch, at least they might stay home. Evangelical organizations believe that strategy will fail, but even a slight decrease in voter turnout from the most dependable Republican demographic could cripple the party.
The impeccably timed release of a new book from former White House aide David Kuo might further discourage evangelical voters. Tempting Faith accuses the Bush administration of lacking enthusiasm for its own Faith-Based Initiative and says some of Karl Rove's staffers mocked evangelicals as "nuts," "ridiculous," and "goofy." Kuo, the deputy director of Bush's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives until 2003, does not name individual staffers. And Bush officials deny the charges-yet another defensive move in a Republican camp increasingly defined by them.
Here's a look at this week's Election '06 coverage:
The party's the thing: In Pennsylvania's Senate race, two pro-lifers run against party affiliation