Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Once Boon, Ties to Bush May Be Bust

Fate has turned Representative Mike Sodrel's re-election campaign into a test case of the impact of public discontent with President Bush and the war in Iraq.

Two years ago, Mr. Sodrel, a Republican and the owner of a trucking company, stood shoulder to shoulder with Mr. Bush in support of the invasion of Iraq, and his campaign featured a procession of appearances with Mr. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and several cabinet members. Mr. Bush won 59 percent of the vote in the district, and the Republican tide helped push him to victory by a few hundred votes over the Democratic incumbent, Baron Hill.

This fall he faces a rematch against Mr. Hill, but like Republican incumbents around the country, Mr. Sodrel is running at a time when disillusionment with the war has turned association with Mr. Bush from a credential to a question mark in the eyes of many voters.

"We have lost so many young men that I think it is time we need to make some changes," said Betty Robbins, a shopkeeper in Scottsburg, Ind., who said she voted for Mr. Bush in 2004 and then pulled the lever for every Republican on the ticket, including Mr. Sodrel. Ms. Robbins said that she now viewed Mr. Bush as "asinine," and that if she went to the polls this fall she was unlikely to vote again for Mr. Sodrel. "I would jump the fence," she said.

Republicans around the country are openly debating how to distance themselves from voters' dissatisfaction with Mr. Bush and the war, but without further tarnishing their party and its public face in the process. For Mr. Sodrel, who won the razor-close race on Mr. Bush's coattails, the problem is especially acute.



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