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But that fact hides one other big political change since the November elections. Skepticism among Republicans about the President's thinking on Iraq has become reflexive. Over the past week, two Republican Senators, Richard Lugar of Indiana and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, indicated they were far from sold on the surge, and Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam veteran from Nebraska, called a surge "folly." A senior aide to a G.O.P. Senator told TIME that "requiring more troops without providing the goals or the message is a killer. It's a political killer."
And this is where the problem of the President's direction on Iraq only damages his cause in the long run. The White House imagines it is girding for battle against the Democrats and the naysayers who opposed the war in the first place. In fact, its fastest-growing problem is with Republicans who carried Bush's water on "stay the course" last fall. That gambit cost the party 36 seats in the House and Senate in November. One can only imagine what that number would have been 45? 55? had Bush campaigned last fall for sending 20,000 more troops to Iraq instead.