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Monday, November 14, 2005

Will Bush campaign for Shays and Simmons

With the President's approval numbers freefalling, you can bet Deomcratic challengers Diane Farrell and Joe Courtney hope President Bush will come to Connecticut and campaign for Rob Simmons and Chris Shays.

From The Hartford Courant

Rob Simmons, like many of his vulnerable GOP congressional colleagues, is likely to spend the next year trying to make voters forget he's a Republican.

"If voters make a partisan choice," he said, "I lose."

The 2nd District U.S. representative is one of the national Democratic Party's top 2006 targets, along with about two dozen other GOP House members.

To win - and keep the GOP in control of the House - Simmons and other vulnerable Republicans will have to peddle their independence and their service to their districts, and make people forget their ties to the White House and GOP congressional leaders.

"Rob Simmons' race is the prototype for so many Republicans in swing districts," said Amy Walter, a Washington political analyst who specializes in House races. "He has to say to constituents: `Look at me. You like me, remember?"'

He's a prototype because of his record - somewhat loyal to GOP leaders, but not entirely - and the nature of his district. Simmons has routinely accepted campaign cash from former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and he remains a strong backer of the Iraq war. But he was quick to question President Bush's Social Security reforms earlier this year, and he has a strong environmental record.

Simmons has won three close elections in a district that Bush lost last year to Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry by 10 percentage points and to Al Gore by 14 in 2000. For 26 years, until Simmons won in 2000, the district was represented by Democratic Party icons Christopher J. Dodd and then Sam Gejdenson.

Republicans today have a 29-seat majority in the House and a 10-seat advantage in the Senate. To win back control, Democrats plan to throw lots of ads and workers into swing districts like the one Simmons represents, making it harder for Simmons to ignore his own party label.

If 2006 erupts into a nationwide protest against Bush and the Republicans, Democrats are confident Simmons and the other shaky GOP members of Congress will probably lose, and a lot of Republicans agree.

"For the first time, people are genuinely angry with this president," said GOP pollster Frank Luntz. He, as well as independent polls, finds voters across the country are increasingly upset about the Iraq war, unhappy about Bush's handling of this year's Gulf Coast hurricanes and dismayed by White House scandals.

Being seen next to the President Bush nowadays is like the kiss of death for Republicans incumbants and challengers right now and you can be sure that the Democrats will do everything in their power to link Bush up with Shays, Simmons over the next year.