It's going rather underreported, except on Fox, but one of the more surprising political stories of the year is the resilience of Rep. John Murtha. In another year, Murtha would be in trouble from the usual roving bands of Republican strategists. He comes from a conservative district (Kerry won by a mere two percent), and he's taken a position on the Iraq War that, we're told, is political suicide—let's save time and use the Republican shorthand of "cut n' run."
But the opposition to Murtha has been absolutely pathetic. Probably because they need to save the skin of five endangered cohorts, Pennsylvania Republicans aren't forking money or support towards Murtha's challenger, a county commissioner (one of three in one of the district's nine counties) named Diana Irey. Pro-war bloggers, like the Rightroots coalition, have tried to shepherd money Irey's way. But as of now she's raised about $15,000 from Rightroots. That's less than Ned Lamont raises in a day.
Irey is getting a bunch of support from third-party groups, but this last weekend saw a revealing event in the district. Irey supporters held a "boot Murtha" rally, keynoted by the father of 9/11 martyr Todd Beamer, that attracted… 750 people. A competing rally for Murtha, headlined by Gen. Wesley Clark and Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, attracted more than twice as many people. Note that the anti-Murtha rally was indoors, and the pro-Murtha rally was outdoors—and that it was raining.
For some reason the American Spectator is leading its site for the third consecutive day with a story on a bribe Murtha didn't take, twenty-six years ago. It was enough to impress Fox News muppet Sean Hannity, but the story, like Irey's challenge, is mostly being ignored. I think a year or so ago, the corner was turned on the Iraq issue, and candidates are no longer going to be pegged as "anti-military" or beatable if they want out of the occupation. Murtha's the leading indicator of this.