Support Strong for Bush Among GOP Contenders

ByTEDDY DAVIS

April 16, 2007— -- Fealty towards President Bush on the Iraq war among GOP White House hopefuls and Congressional Republicans may not last beyond early 2008 if violence continues unabated in the war-torn country, according to a veteran Iowa Republican strategist.

"They remember what happened last time," the Iowa-based GOP strategist told ABC News. "They are not going to go through another election with the Iraq war hanging around their necks."

The Republican strategist, who spoke with ABC News on the condition of anonymity so that he could offer his candid assessment, expects the top GOP candidates to stay with Bush through the decisive nominating contests because of where the party's base is on the war.

He predicts, however, that the GOP's 2008 nominee, as well as congressional Republicans, will break with Bush after the primaries barring a turnaround in Iraq.

Uniform support for Bush's strategy on the Iraq war and the broader war on terror was voiced last week by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass.

The loyalty was on display despite the Iraq war's unpopularity with the independent voters who powered the Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006.

"There's only one commander in chief," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Saturday at a GOP candidates forum in Des Moines, Iowa, "and that's George W. Bush, and I support him."

Earlier in the day, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani heaped praise on Bush while speaking to caucus-goers at Noah's Ark restaurant in Des Moines.

"I admire President Bush because President Bush has the single most important quality a leader has to have, the ability to look into the future and see what's right for America, not the necessity to be popular," said Giuliani.

Four days earlier, former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., chose the George Bush Presidential Library Center at Texas A&M as the setting for a major foreign policy speech.

"The troop surge has a real chance of working, and early signs are encouraging," said Romney as the president's father looked on. "It is time for Congress to follow the lead of the commanders in the field and the commander-in-chief."

Given support from the GOP's base for Bush on Iraq, an aide to a leading Democratic presidential candidate is not surprised by how the top Republican presidential hopefuls are positioning themselves.

He questioned, however, whether the Republican who emerges from the GOP's primary fight would be able to effectively separate himself from Bush in 2008 after the fealty which is being shown to Bush in 2007.

Referring to McCain's statement of support for Bush at the GOP dinner, the Democrat said with a smile, "I hope we have that on tape."

ABC News' Paul Fidalgo contributed to this report.

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