Bush's Star Power Shows Signs Of Dimming On The Hill

Congressional Republicans remain supportive of President Bush's policies, but aides say Bush himself and the White House PR staff are losing strength on Capitol Hill as his lame-duck status grows.

Two developments: First, Senate Republican leadership aides say members back Bush's plan to increase troop levels in Iraq, not out of a desire necessarily to support the president but more out of a conviction that it is the best way to help the Middle East.

"When you look at Republican senators and congressmen who are supporting the surge and funding," says one leadership aide, "supporting this is not for him [the president] anymore. Maybe two years or a year ago it was." The aide said senators were supporting the plan because "we cannot afford to leave a failed state." The Senate has not managed to pass a resolution on the Iraq policy despite several attempts and much jockeying.

Second, as the 2008 presidential campaign begins to dominate the news cycle, GOP congressional aides expect that more of the PR power and messaging control will come increasingly from Republicans in Congress rather than the White House.

"The House and Senate guys are going to emerge," said one Senate Republican leadership aide. Members of the White House press team, the aide says, "are receding into the background a little bit," mostly on internal matters related to coordinating policy and politics between the branches.

By Silla Brush