GOP Crystal Ball: Congress Looks Dim, But McCain Can Win

Republican strategists are increasingly upset about GOP prospects in the congressional elections this fall but are upbeat about John McCain's chances in the presidential race.

New polls, both public and privately conducted within the GOP, show that voters are eager for change. Forty-seven percent of Americans now identify themselves with the Democrats and only 35 percent with the Republicans, according to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. Most Americans also find fault with President Bush over how he has handled the economy, the Iraq war, and problems in the healthcare system.

But McCain seems to have the potential to rise above this negative political "undertow," GOP insiders say, because of his history as a maverick and his principled stands on Iraq and other issues. Republican strategists are also heartened because McCain is staying close to both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in hypothetical matchups for the fall election. McCain advisers add that he will have a great opportunity to make his case directly to the public in debates and in other forums that will rivet the country's attention and set him apart as a "different kind of Republican."

By Kenneth T. Walsh