For Civil War history buff Rep. Tom Cole, tonight’s special election in Mississippi’s 1st Congressional District means a lot. It could determine if he’s the General Grant or General Lee of his House colleagues, emboldened with a victory and ready to stand for the next battle, or stuck with a defeat and tossed into the scrapheap of history like Union Gen. George McClellan. Rumors are swirling that a defeat will prompt House members to push Cole out as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. But associates are defending Cole strongly, claiming that he’s not to blame for the poor political climate. "His pals see him getting scapegoated for an awful political climate," said one associate. The race pits Democrat Travis Childers versus Republican Greg Davis for a seat opened when Rep. Roger Wicker was elevated to the Senate to replace former Sen. Trent Lott. A loss of the seat to the Democrats would be the third this year, something the GOP can’t stomach. Some House insiders believe that a change is needed at the top of the fundraising and candidate recruiting organization. Still other insiders believe that the party’s House leadership hasn’t done enough to give Cole ammunition to work with and provide candidates, such as a new form of the old Contract with America. "We still need an agenda to fight for, not just blast away at our foes," says one GOP strategist. Cole associates note that no matter what happens in tonight’s race, that once the general election begins, the district should return to GOP roots. Cole has long said that once the party has a nominee, then many questionable races will come into line. He has a battle plan, but it’s probably unfolding a little later than he wanted. In the 1st District his fall blueprint could work since Sen. John McCain has a 62 percent favorability rating and Democrats have run TV ads trying to show distance between Sen. Barack Obama and Childers. NRCC spokeswoman Julie Shutley said, "Special elections are unpredictable and it is a difficult environment for Republicans. No matter what happens tonight, the election is not over until November when Democrats in conservative districts will be running on the same ballot as Barack Obama and will be unable to run from their party’s nominee."