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Politics

Showdown in Mississippi

There's a very important election Tuesday and it's not the Democratic primary in West Virginia.

There's a very important election Tuesday and it's not the Democratic primary in West Virginia. It's the special congressional election in Mississippi. A Democratic win would -- and should -- propel Republicans from simple alarm into full-fledged panic.

This is the third election in 10 weeks in a solidly Republican district. Democrats won the first two, and if they manage to win this one, look for GOP leaders to go into crisis mode. Already, the loss of the first two seats -- in

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House GOP Leader John Boehner of Ohio lectured his flock sternly about the need to burnish  the GOP  "brand" and plans to create a committee to advise him. At the same time, Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the head of House Republican election efforts, warned members to make raising cash a top priority.

By right, the race in Mississippi for a seat held by Republicans since 1994 shouldn't even be close. But  conservative Democrat Travis Childers won more votes than Republican Greg Davis and forced a runoff. As they did in Louisiana, without success, Republicans are running ads trying to tie Childers to Barack Obama and, by implication, to Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The ads replay Wright's controversial remarks criticizing the U.S. and imply Childers agrees because he didn't speak out immediately .

This has not been a good year for Republicans and all the usual indicators point to big losses in November -- a weak economy, unhappiness with the war in Iraq and the very low approval ratings for President Bush. The one bright spot, Republicans say, will be having John McCain at the top of the ticket in the fall -- and having Obama to attack. We'll find out Tuesday whether that's a real plus -- or an empty hope.

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