Pete RoseThe AP has some analysis of the growing sense of unease sweeping over the GOP Senatorial Caucus. The Fear is nibbling especially at the tiny little souls of Republican Senators up for reelection next year, but it is also starting to gnaw even the fetid innards of the useless Republican skin-sacks who have been installed in Washington permanently because our system is absurdly tilted in favor of incumbents.

You see, the Glorious War in Iraq is not going well and because of that nobody likes The Republican Senators anymore. This is a problem not least because nobody really liked them very much in the first place. Well, people liked John McCain, for reasons that have always rather escaped me, but nowadays he is as highly regarded as, say, Scott Stapp, only without the gravitas. Is a similar fate in store for such Legislative Titans as, perhaps, Norm Coleman, whose ability to portray himself as taking an Unpopular Stand because of his Deeply Rooted Principles is badly hampered by the fact that he is obviously an opportunistic cretin?

But nobody knows for sure what will happen. Only one thing is certain: GOP Senators are not quite the type of people who do a thing because it’s right. They do the right thing by accident or when they are compelled, and even then if they are not afforded the chance to engage in moral grandstanding they’ll find a way to weasel out of it.

Everything’s up in the air. Which is fine, if you enjoy wagering. So let’s go through the AP story and I’ll do my best to lay out the odds on the key contests.

Senate Republicans are growing increasingly nervous defending the war in Iraq, and Democrats more confident in their attempts to end it.

More than a year before the 2008 elections, it is a political role reversal that bodes ill for President Bush’s war strategy, not to mention his recent statement that Congress’ role should merely be “funding the troops.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, made that clear Friday when he dismissed any suggestion that it could be November before a verdict is possible on the effects of the administration’s current troop increase.

“September is the month we’re looking at,” he said unequivocally.

Unequivocally? Mitch McConnell, leaving himself no weasel room? Odds that September is really and for true the cutoff date that will make the GOP Senators cave and vote for a timeline: 20-1, against.

It is not only the mood that is changing among Republicans. So, too, the rhetoric.

“Cut and run,” has largely come and gone as an insult to hurl at Democrats, as Republicans themselves contemplate a change in course.

That’s interesting: I have not heard “cut and run” for a while. Hmmm. But the odds that Republicans will give up on the “unpatriotic appeaser” smears are remote: 75-1, against. Logical contradictions have never bothered them before. Why stop now?

In this view, the main U.S. military focus should be on preventing Iraq from falling under terrorist control. One Republican senator, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the shift in talk of a military objective was a prelude to a change to a strategy that would pull U.S. troops back from a civil war between Sunni and Shiites.

This, I bet will happen anyway. We’ve already seen the rhetoric shift to “eeek, Al Qaeda! Remember them?” The new thing is a sort of Faulkner-cum-Basil Fawlty thing: “Don’t talk about the civil war!” 3-1, for.

But focusing attention on al-Qaida raises familiar questions: Were terrorists present in Iraq before the 2003 invasion and what would happen if U.S. forces departed?

According to several officials, Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, and McCain engaged in a brief, impromptu debate touching on that point recently at a private meeting of the rank and file.

Voinovich said the Sunni and Shiites in Iraq would together drive al-Qaida from their country if the U.S. were not there. McCain took the opposite view. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, noting that the meeting was private.

Odds that Voinovich will be the next spectacular GOP flameout as he flails wildly to look like a Serious Statesman and makes a total fool of himself: 2-1, for.

But here, of course, is where the real hot action lies:

It was only 13 months — and one election — ago that Reid was the one hoping to avoid a vote on a troop withdrawal. Then, Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Russell Feingold, D-Wis., angered Reid by insisting on a vote on a fixed withdrawal deadline of July 1, 2007.

Democratic strategists fretted about the impact on senators seeking re-election and challengers to Republicans in swing states.

The plan drew the support of 13 Democrats. Reid was not among them, nor were the Democratic presidential contenders currently clamoring for the support of anti-war voters.

The public, it turned out, was more unhappy about the war than the Democratic strategists understood. Despite their tentativeness, Democrats won control of the House and Senate in an election in which Iraq played a large role.

“Now it’s the unified Democratic position,” Kerry correctly e-mailed his supporters last week.

Will the Democrats in the Senate hang tough and force the issue come September? Or will they fold?

Can’t offer bets on that. See, we’re all in the game on that one. It’s our job to see that they don’t.

And as Pete Rose learned, you don’t put money on a game you’re in.