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The Defending Majority

In his Sunday column, Bob Novak wrote that Speaker Dennis Hastert's friends are urging him "to seek the top Republican post-election leadership position, whether or not the party retains control of the House Nov. 7, so that his long public career does not end marred by the Mark Foley scandal."  Hastert told Sean Hannity yesterday that the GOP will keep its majority and he will run for Speaker again. 

The Sunday Washington Post reported, "Based on polling, Republican strategists say a half-dozen seats, including open seats in Colorado, Arizona and Ohio, appear unwinnable.  Six other races... are looking dire but not hopeless.  Most worrisome, GOP strategists say, is that 20 or more additional Republican incumbents are essentially tied or holding very small leads -- a danger zone for a sitting member of Congress in a tough political environment." 

The term "killing fields," used to refer to likely Republican losses of districts in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania, is about to become popular. 

"From Virginia up to Connecticut, through the Midwest to New Mexico, polls tell the same story: GOP incumbents in swing states and congressional districts are unusually vulnerable, often stuck around 40 to 45 percent," says the Hartford Courant.  "But they also show that in a large number of races, Democrats have not yet closed the deal." 

Not only are moderate Republicans at risk of losing next week, but so are the "Republican Party's chief swashbucklers," the Boston Globe pointed out yesterday.  The "increasing unpopularity of the Iraq war is making some voters tire of the defiant demeanor showcased by the majority party in recent years, analysts say -- a special problem for those whose political style most resembles President Bush."

Sunday's Globe noted that per GOP officials, "they have a strong record of squeezing out victories in close races."  However, "the fact that the Republicans won so many close races in 2004 also underscores the historic tendency for one party to sweep most of the tight contests in any given year, making a Democratic rout a possibility this year...  Congressional elections in 1980, 1992, 1994, and 2002 also featured a lot of close races, and most of them ended up going the same way -- to Republicans in 1980, 1994, and 2002, and to Democrats in 1992." 

The Los Angeles Times says one test of the Republican leadership's argument that the election will be decided by local issues will be vulnerable GOP Rep. Heather Wilson's Albuquerque-based district, which Republicans have always held.  "No incumbent has ever been defeated" there, "not even in the big Democratic elections of 1974 and 1982." 

The New York Times notes that bedrocks of socially liberal Republicanism -- like suburban Seattle, where Rep. Dave Reichert (R) is facing challenger Darcy Burner (D) -- are fed up with the Republican party.