"At this point, I can't even tell you where Mitch is on some of these" Iraq-related amendments, Coleman added. "This is an issue that is so transcendent - there hasn't been a lot of herding."Kentucky's own Al Cross also noted that Mitch is increasingly vulnerable after his failed attempt to push through Teddy Kennedy's amnesty bill:
Privately, however, some Republicans and their top aides express alarm that McConnell has recently hung back on more divisive issues, allowing party rifts to be highlighted and weakening Bush's position where he can least afford it.
In many cases, Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., who chairs the party's communications operation, and Trent Lott, R-Miss., the whip, have instead taken the lead.
"McConnell knows he can't take anything for granted, and he doesn't," said Al Cross, who runs a rural journalism center at the University of Kentucky. "The immigration vote was the real signal that he knows he's not a shoo-in for re-election."