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Warning signs for the national GOP

Via the NYT:

WASHINGTON — The Republican defeat in a special Congressional contest in Mississippi sent waves of apprehension across an already troubled party Wednesday, with some senior Republicans urging Congressional candidates to distance themselves from President Bush to head off what could be heavy losses in the fall.

The victory by Travis Childers, a conservative Democrat elected in a once-steadfast Republican district on Tuesday, was the third defeat of a Republican in a special Congressional race this year. In addition to foreshadowing more losses for the party in November, the outcome appeared to call into question the belief that Senator Barack Obama of Illinois could be a heavy liability for his party’s down-ticket candidates in conservative regions.

Republicans had sought to link Mr. Childers to Mr. Obama in an advertising campaign there. Republican leaders said they were looking to Senator John McCain of Arizona, the likely Republican nominee, as a model whose independent reputation appears to allow him to rise above party in a year when the Republican label seems tarnished.

But Mr. McCain’s advisers said the Mississippi race underlined his intention to distance himself as much as possible from Congressional Republicans. Mr. McCain has already been openly critical of some of President Bush’s strategies.

The level of distress was evident in remarks by senior party officials throughout the day.

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