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It’s the same problem a lot of Democrats face in a state where the president and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are distinctly unpopular.

In the 17th Congressional District, a mostly rural swath of Texas from Waco to College Park, Mr. Edwards, 58, is desperately trying to distance himself from Mrs. Pelosi.

Over the years, Mr. Edwards‘ brand of “Blue Dog” Democratic Party conservatism - he bucked party leaders on health care reform and the energy bill - has helped the 10-term congressman turn back a string of Republican challengers.

But the polls this fall show he is in real trouble, trailing oil man Bill Flores in a district that includes Crawford, the Waco-area ranching community of Mr. Bush.