With President George W. Bush's approval rating hovering around 40 percent, some members of his Republican Party continue to distance themselves from his national agenda as they fight uphill re-election battles at home.
show about 30 percent of Americans believe the country under President
Bush is headed in the right direction, and only 25 percent approve
of the job Congress is doing. With many in the electorate upset
at the president, Congress, high energy costs, the situation in
Iraq and the economy, some analysts are comparing this year's
election cycle to 1994 when Democrats lost control of the House.
With the exception of Bill Clinton, the president's party has consistently lost seats during the sixth year of service. Democrats, hoping to capitalize on the electorate's mood, will try to turn midterm elections into a referendum on the Republican Party with President Bush at the helm.
The question remains whether President Bush is an asset or a liability for Republican candidates. His unpopularity has been credited for changing several seats once considered safely Republican into competitive races and for making already tough races even more difficult.
According to the Cook Political Report, there may be 36 Republican and 10 Democratic seats in play this November. The Democrats are leading Republicans in the polls by a 10-point margin as the party voters would like to see in office this fall.
Against this backdrop, the president is using his rallying power to raise money for the party's re-election effort. This August, instead of relaxing on his ranch in Crawford, Texas, he'll be traveling around the country in the hopes of boosting local Republican campaigns.
Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., who is overseeing the Republican effort to keep control of the House, recently told the Associated Press that, "the president is the best fundraiser that the Republican Party knows today in 2006."
When asked about whether President Bush could be a liability in swing districts, he noted that he was able to raise $840,000 for Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., a centrist in the Seattle area.
In June, the president hosted a fundraiser in Reichert's district, but Reichert was quick to issue a statement distancing himself from Bush. "I'm my own man," Reichert told the Seattle Times. "He's his own man."
As races in blue states heat up, some candidates, including Michael Steele who faces a tough Senate race in Maryland, are admitting that they do not want the president campaigning for them.
In July, Steele acknowledged that he was the unnamed candidate quoted in the Washington Post saying that being a Republican was like wearing a "scarlet letter."
Others are making sure to position themselves against the president on certain issues. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., who is struggling to make gains at the polls is focusing on illegal immigration, a hot topic in a state where manufacturing is a key aspect of the local economy. Santorum's opposition to amnesty for illegal immigrants puts him at odds with the president's policy.
Before the summer break, GOP lawmakers proposed legislation meant to rally support from their conservative base. As part of the "American Values Agenda" they pushed votes recently on gay marriage, flag burning and using God in the Pledge of Allegiance.
The president represented the minority when he used his first veto on a compromise on federal funding for stem cell research despite polls that show public support for the measure. Some Republicans admitted the veto may have done more harm than good.
But such nods to the religious right could hurt Republicans in more moderate districts where polls indicate the president is losing support. These seats could be crucial for the Republicans to remain in control of Congress.
"I think history will look very unkindly on this veto," said Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn.