Republican nominee Mitt Romney's turbulent few weeks underscore a new reality for embattled Congressional Republicans: They might be on their own in November.
The presidential race is far from over; fewer than 50 days remain before the election, and Democrats and Republicans still expect a competitive race. But as polls show President Barack Obama's lead strengthening in key states, GOP campaigns cannot count on a strong Romney performance to put them over the top. Republicans seeking re-election increasingly view their races in a vacuum, or at least they hope that's the case.
"I just don't think that any of our Members are tied to Romney at all," said a top House GOP aide who requested anonymity to speak freely. "They just don't connect the person to Romney, and that's good for us."
The stakes are especially high in the Senate, where Republicans must win a net of four seats to take control of the chamber if Obama wins re-election. But a trio of recent polls in three battleground states show Senate candidates often tied with Romney - and trailing Democratic opponents.
In Ohio, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) led state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) by 7 points in an NBC News/Marist poll out last week. That survey showed Obama holding the same margin over Romney in the Buckeye State.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) cited Mandel's own polling when asked how Romney's standing would affect the race.
"Josh's numbers are better," Portman said, citing improvement since the start of the race. "He's gone from 20 points down, to 10 points down, to 5 points down, to some polls showing him in a dead heat."
But in competitive Virginia, former Gov. Tim Kaine (D) led former Sen. George Allen (R) by 8 points in a Washington Post poll released Wednesday. Obama led Romney by that same margin in the survey.
In Wisconsin, Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) and former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) were tied in a CBS News/Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday. Obama led Romney by 6 points in that survey.
"If it's a close election, that means we can do what we need to do," one top Senate Republican aide said. "If it's not a close election, that obviously won't be helpful."
Even in Massachusetts, where Sen. Scott Brown (R) faces a tough re-election bid against Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren (D), the presidential race is a factor. Brown was one of the first Republicans to distance himself from Romney's recently revealed comments from a fundraiser.
"We're two different people, obviously, and people recognize that," Brown said Wednesday. "I know she'd like to run against Mitt Romney, but she's running against me."