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WEDGING THE PLEDGE

For a few glorious moments, the “Pledge to America” soared unsullied in the sunshine before plummeting to earth, to be pawed at and snarled over by predators from several camps. The House Republicans’ lyrical but lengthy document was intended as a cautious, earnest road map for a political party intent on unseating Democratic rivals in the midterm elections — now a mere 39 days away. Those Republicans also want their White House back. But the spectrum of reactions indicates it won’t be easy; the rules have changed and foes are unpredictable.

Naturally, the five leading Senate Republicans — Mitch McConnell of Kentucky et al. — acted like proud papas, collectively praising the 21-page pledge and vowing to fight for its principles. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine dismissed it as the “same old GOP agenda.” References to pro-life and family issues won favorable reviews from the Family Research Center, American United for Life and the Susan B. Anthony List.

But Regent University political professor and former Ronald Reagan/George W. Bush appointee Charles Dunn declared the pledge “perfectly timed, properly staged, poorly crafted and poorly delivered” by a Republican collective rather than a single powerful voice, namely, Newt Gingrich. Conservative blogger Erick Erickson took a big swipe, declaring the document “mom-tested, kid-approved pablum … it is dreck.”

“The clear purpose of the ‘Pledge to America’ is to help Republicans in the 2010 congressional elections. And to that end it will have some small benefit,” observes Richard A. Viguerie, chairman of ConservativeHQ.com. “Of course, it is asking too much of politicians to expect them to put forth meaningful, bold, new ideas weeks before a major election.”

He adds, “This new promise is mostly about Republicans promising not to do things they relished doing in the last decade. But if the GOP does not push hard in the new Congress to return America to small, constitutional government, expect most Republican incumbents to be seriously challenged by ‘tea party’ candidates in 2012.”

BUMPER PATROL

“I was anti-Obama before anti-Obama was cool.”

Spotted by WMAL newsman and friend-of-Inside the Beltway Rick Fowler, on Interstate 66 near Fairfax, Va.

PARSING THE INDEPENDENTS

There’s much noise about the potential power of independent voters come Nov. 2. Panicked strategists have a choice on who to woo, though. Based on recent opinion polls, the Pew Research Center reveals that independents are not “monolithic” and now fall into four categories:

Shadow Republicans (26 percent of independent voters): Strongly anti-government, but not so critical of the political system. Relatively affluent and well-educated, older and male. Most agree with the ‘tea party’; they support Republicans over Democrats in their district, 66 percent to 18 percent.

Disaffecteds (16 percent): Hard hit by the recession, highly financially stressed. Anti-government and anti-politician, they support Republicans over Democrats, 58 percent to 31 percent.

Shadow Democrats (21 percent): Hold positive views of government and politics; younger, racially and ethnically diverse — a quarter are black or Hispanic. Favor the Democratic candidate by a wide margin (62 percent to 23 percent); fewer than half are “thinking much” of the election.

Doubting Democrats (20 percent): Less anti-government, but deeply anti-business and highly critical of elected officials and both political parties. Forty-four percent favor the Democratic candidate in their districts, 32 percent the Republican and 24 percent are unsure.

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