Risky business--GOP touts national security

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President Bush's five-speech effort to revive support for his failing military effort in Iraq and more important, to bolster Republicans'chances in the midterm elections, is quite the gamble. With members of Congress in many parts of the country treating Bush like a fowl carrying birdflu, the Republican political strategy appears to have lost its 12-yearluster.

Could it be Karl Rove is reduced to replaying old tapesand tactics?

Republicans' poll numbers are stunningly sub par compared with Republican victories in Congress and/or the White House, starting with former Speaker Newt Gingrich's take-back of the U.S. House in 1994, which reversed 40 years of Democratic dominance. Are we now, in turn, witnessing the beginning of the end of Republican control of American politics?

It's too soon to jump to that conclusion. But what we are witnessing is increasing dissension within the delicately cobbled-together Republican coalition. Fiscal conservatives have longsince tired of the president's infatuation with debt. Goldwater conservatives are entirely fed up with evangelical conservatives who cannot pry too deeply or often enough into others' bedrooms. And evangelical conservatives, in turn, are dissatisfied with a president whom they view as kowtowing to the middle (e.g., President Bush's acting FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach's approval of over-the-counter sales of Plan B).

Most recent proof in point? This from the front page of the Wall Street Journal: "A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in June, buttressed by other polls since, suggested Democrats have gained significant ground. It gave them a 3-point advantage on the question of which party can best deal with Iraq, erasing Republicans' 30-point edge of October 2002."

A 33-point drop? Truly stunning! Even if over 3½ years.

It seems that all Republicans have to bank on now is Democrats' unfailing ability to bollix even a cakewalk.