Security Becomes a Tricky Issue in 2006 Elections

With midterm elections just four weeks away, new polls show an increasingly difficult situation for Republicans struggling to retain control of Congress. President Bush's own approval ratings are down in the 30's again, giving back the ground he gained in September.

The war in Iraq is weighing heavily, and unexpected events like the Mark Foley scandal and North Korea's nuclear test are dominating the airwaves — although it's still not clear what effect they'll have on Election Day.

But four Tuesdays from the vote — a time when the president is counted on to help his party — a spike in violence in Iraq, and fallout from the Foley scandal, have brought uncertainty into campaigns.

"'What we've seen is that what was already a dicey situation for the Republicans in the House," says Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist at Emory University, "has become even dicier."

The new tension over North Korea also complicates the central issue challenging Republicans this year: the U.S. mission in Iraq. Poll after poll has demonstrated public opposition to the war, and a growing belief that the mission isn't worth it.

That puts each Republican candidate on the spot.

In a debate between Senate candidates in Tennessee, Republican Bob Corker laid out a position similar to that of President Bush. His Democratic opponent, Rep. Harold Ford, said that Americans are tired of calls to "stay the course" in Iraq.

"I have never, ever said stay the course," Corker replied. "What I've said is, is that we have military commanders on the ground. I think we should listen to them."

Like Corker, other Republicans seem to be in the same predicament: trying to energize the core Republican voters they rely on — even as they' put some space between themselves and the White House.

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