The polls for the Presidential race may be tightening once again, but that hasn’t stopped vulnerable Republicans from jumping ship—if not for the Obama camp, than at least as far away from the McCain campaign as possible. In my story in the current issue of TNR, I explain how Chris Shays, the only New England Republican in the House, has imperiled his own chances for survival by openly embracing the McCain-Palin ticket. Well, it looks like Shays himself has realized the hazards of such loyalty in a district where Obama is now leading by 59 percent. From the AP:

“He has lost his brand as a maverick," Rep. Chris Shays, a Connecticut Republican and co-chairman of the McCain campaign in that state, told the Yale Daily News in the latest criticism. "He did not live up to his pledge to fight a clean campaign.”

Shays’s harsh appraisal is a real turnaround from the full-throated praise that he has espoused for the GOP ticket up until now. The Connecticut representative is currently running neck and neck with Jim Himes, the Democratic challenger in the 4th district, and his recent comments sound like a last-minute attempt to win over voters who’ve long had faith in Shays’s own version of moderate, independent-minded Republicanism. But, at this point, Shays’s about-face seems like too little, way too late. Whatever the outcome in Connecticut’s 4th, it seems clear that McCain won’t be the only one to have tarnished his maverick brand in this election.

--Suzy Khimm