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GOP turmoil

The AP notes that Bush "defended" Speaker Dennis Hastert during their joint appearance yesterday without mentioning the Foley scandal.  The story also points out that the two GOP House candidates who were the beneficiaries of the fundraiser "spoke differently about the president."  The candidate in the "uphill" race spoke positively about having Bush visit the area, while the candidate in the toss-up race noted how he has been "'very vocal in my separation and criticism of the administration.'" 

The Los Angeles Times calls Bush's words of support for Hastert a "big verbal hug."  "Bush and other Republicans hope to return the focus of the campaign to national security issues.  But the Foley scandal continued to play out" as Foley's former chief of staff appeared before the House Ethics Committee. 

A new Chicago Tribune/WGN poll finds that a majority of Illinois voters disapprove of Bush's job and 60% are unhappy with the GOP-led Congress.  "The survey also shows nearly half of voters disapprove of the way Hastert… has handled the congressional page controversy." 

"Although Democrats' internal polling shows that the Foley scandal is resonating deeply only in half a dozen races, party operatives are calculating that GOP candidates are now unusually vulnerable to personal attacks," says the Washington Post.  "Former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie said Democrats are dangerously close 'to overreaching' in their attacks, risking a political backlash like the one that damaged Republicans after they pushed for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton...  Democratic operatives said they are aware of this possibility but are calculating that... they will not backfire." 

This won't go over well: As first reported on MSNBC, a former top official in the White House office of faith-based initiatives writes in a new book that Bush aides privately ridiculed evangelicals even as they publicly courted them.  "The assertions... have rattled Republican strategists already struggling to persuade evangelical voters to turn out this fall for the GOP."  MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" tonight airs the second of its two-part series on the book.