Although many Republicans are optimistic that Bush will win reelection next year, all nonretiring House members (and a third of senators) have their own 2004 reelection campaigns to worry about. Some GOP incumbents -- especially those in the several dozen House districts that Democrat Al Gore carried or nearly won in 2000 -- are showing an increasing willingness to vote against key White House initiatives and to reassure constituents that they think and act independently of the president.
Leach was among 21 Republicans who joined most Democrats when the House voted 221 to 203 to bar the administration from implementing the overtime revisions. Scores of Republicans bucked the White House by voting to overturn a Federal Communications Commission rule making media mergers easier, and several also voted, against Bush's wishes, to allow the importation of prescription drugs from Canada and other countries.
Such erosion of GOP solidarity was rarely seen when Bush's approval ratings were higher, but it hardly signals a deep or permanent break between the White House and congressional GOP moderates. Republican lawmakers from swing districts say that Bush generally remains popular with their constituents, and that jobs, not Iraq, are number one on voters' minds. Many GOP House members are taking a cautious line: focusing on the possibility that Bush can't help them at reelection time, yet continuing to support him as much as possible.
Rats. Ship. Sinking. Enough said.