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Murtha on the Rocks? Dicks in the Wings??

In the last two days I've seen several stories citing polls that Rep. John Murtha (D-Penn.), one of the most powerful House members, may lose to the GOP after making some very unwise comments about Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and whether Murtha's own constituents would vote for the senator.

A Murtha defeat would unleash a political earthquake in the House, where Murtha is the second-ranking member of the appropriations committee and leads the defense subcommittee. Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) is the man behind Murtha on the committee. Murtha has been sympathetic to Boeing on the tanker issue but Dicks has led Boeing's charges on the issue and Murtha's defeat would give the company a very good friend in the most important job in the House when it comes to defense spending.

Murtha apparently described his own constituents in western Pennsylvania as racist and then apologized. After that, he went on to say that the area he represents had been "really redneck" in the past. It looks as if William Russell, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, has a pretty good chance of unseating the 17-term congressman. Depending on which poll numbers you look at, Murtha is either running only a few points ahead of Russell, it's a dead heat or the challenger is coming on strong and may whup Murtha. No matter which poll you read, a representative with as many years in the House and with as much power as Dicks has amassed should be crushing any opponent. This race is just another reason to stay up really late tomorrow night.

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