LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A Republican locked in a tight congressional race with a harsh critic of the Iraq war said Wednesday that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld should be replaced.
Rep. Anne Northup, a five-term incumbent, also called for a change of course in Iraq, a stark contrast to her past support of President Bush.
Northup, whose district favored John Kerry over Bush in 2004, said she remains a supporter of the war but wants to see a change in direction as violence has intensified in recent weeks.
"You can have a bad week, you can have two bad weeks, but when you have two bad months, you have to reassess," she said. "You cannot afford to lose the numbers we are losing now and just keep slugging away."
Northup's opponent, Democrat John Yarmuth, called Northup's statements on Rumsfeld and the war predictable.
"She knows that her ties to the administration and almost unbending loyalty to the Bush agenda has put her in serious political jeopardy, and she's doing her best to run away from him now," Yarmuth said.
Northup brought Bush to her district to campaign for her in 2002 but has distanced herself from him since. Many Republicans running this fall have done likewise, with an AP-Ipsos poll earlier this month showing just 37 percent of voters approving of Bush's handling of Iraq.
Bush said Wednesday he's satisfied with the job Rumsfeld has done and called him a "smart, tough, capable administrator."
Northup said Rumsfeld has had some success, such as trimming Pentagon bureaucracy. But she compared him with a coach suffering through a losing season.
"If you had a coach that was 1-10 in the season, you would change him," she said.
Northup could be running a risk by taking a harsher position on the war with the election less than two weeks away, said Michael Baranowski, a political science professor at Northern Kentucky University.
"With something like this you open up the charge of too little, too late," Baranowski said.