(Flickr: Bryan Burke)Monday night, after weeks of pressure from Republicans to lift a federal moratorium on new offshore oil drilling, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) abandoned her adamant resistance, indicating that she's now open to a vote on expanding exploration.

"[Republicans] have this thing that says drill offshore in the protected areas," Pelosi told CNN's Larry King late Monday. "Well, we can do that. We can have a vote on that. But it has to be part of something that says we want to bring immediate relief to the public and not just a hoax on them."

The sharp change of position arrives as Republicans, who face a potentially disastrous November election, think they've found a lifeline in offshore drilling. Indeed, with gas prices near historic highs, polls indicate that most Americans now support more drilling. In a continuing Capitol Hill revolt, dozens of House Republicans have circulated through Washington over Congress's August vacation, taking to the dim and empty chamber floor with demands that Pelosi call a vote on the controversial measure.

Illustration by: Matt MahurinThe Republicans hope to portray the Democrats as the party of callousness on the issue of towering gas prices. In retaliation, Democrats accuse the GOP of cozying up to big oil interests. The debate has evolved into a blame-game over which side is blocking the process — and which is fighting hardest for the needs of constituents.

Yet if a Republican primary in Tennessee last week is any indication, GOP leaders might want to reconsider their strategy. In an upset victory Thursday, GOP challenger Phil Roe defeated freshman Rep. David Davis in a contest where Roe portrayed the incumbent — one of the House Republicans giving energy speeches — as an oil company minion. It marked the first primary defeat for a Tennessee incumbent of either party in 40 years. Many political experts say the Republicans' defense of the thriving oil industry may haunt other GOP candidates in November.