Republican Ads Show Distance From Bush

The Associated Press
Monday, September 4, 2006; 6:50 AM

WASHINGTON -- Republicans who were once cozy with President Bush are distancing themselves from both the president and their party in campaign ads.

Consider Rep. Deborah Pryce, the fourth-ranking House Republican struggling to hold onto her seat in an evenly split district in central Ohio, near Columbus.

In 2004, her campaign Web site featured a banner of her and Bush sitting together, smiling. But in her latest television ad, Pryce is described as "independent." The spot also highlights how she "stood up to her own party" and the president to support increased federal funds for embryonic stem-cell research.

As chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, Pryce rallies colleagues to the party message.

With the election in about two months and Bush's approval ratings still low _ 33 percent in the most recent Associated Press-Ipsos poll _ Republicans involved in tight races are avoiding party labels and playing down their ties to the president. On issues from the Iraq war to Amtrak spending, GOP candidates are trying to argue that they don't follow in lockstep.

Among some of the ads:

_In Pennsylvania, Republican Rep. Jim Gerlach tells voters: "When I believe President Bush is right, I'm behind him. But when I think he's wrong, I let him know that, too," Gerlach is in a close contest with Democrat Lois Murphy, who nearly beat him in 2004.

_In Minnesota, where an open Senate seat is at stake, Republican Rep. Mark Kennedy has an ad titled, "Crossing Party Lines," in which he says: "I'm a Republican. On issues like taxes and spending, I vote like it. But on other issues, I cross party lines." In 2002, in his run for the House, a Kennedy ad showed him walking and shaking hands with Bush at the White House. Today, he lists the issues on which he has split from the president.

_In South Florida, heavily populated by retirees, Republican Rep. Clay Shaw criticizes the president's stalled plans to change Social Security and says in his ad, "I represent the state of Florida, not a political party."

Ed Patru, a spokesman for the House Republican campaign committee, shrugged off the latest ads.

"That's nothing new, that's just being a smart campaigner," said Patru, who argued that the candidates were reinforcing the moderate positions that have helped them win in swing districts.

Democrats naturally have a different view.

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