After Foley, New Fears For the GOP
Some Say Party Could Lose House and Senate
The Washington Post reported today that:
Republican strategists said yesterday that public revulsion over the sexually graphic online conversations between Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.)(pictured at left) and former House pages could compound the party's problems enough to tip the House to the Democrats in November -- and could jeopardize the party's hold on the Senate as well.
As House GOP leaders defended their role in handling revelations that forced Foley on Friday to give up his House seat, party strategists said the scandal threatens to depress turnout among Christian conservatives and could hamper efforts to convince undecided and swing voters that Republicans deserve to remain in the majority.
There was intense anger among social conservative activists in Washington yesterday, and some called for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) to resign.
Republican operatives closely following the battle for the House and Senate said that they are virtually ready to concede nearly a third of the 15 seats the Democrats need to recapture control of the House, and that they will spend the next five weeks trying to shelter other vulnerable incumbents from the fallout of the Foley scandal in hopes of salvaging a slender majority.
Districts in which Republicans have effectively walked off the field include Foley's own in South Florida. House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a radio interview with conservative commentator Sean Hannity that the party's replacement candidate is all but doomed. Because of ballot procedures in Florida, "to vote for this candidate, you have to vote for Mark Foley," Boehner said. "How many people are going to hold their nose to do that?"
Others warned that the impact could be much greater. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and an important social conservative leader, said "there's a real chance" that the episode could dethrone the Republican majority. "I think the next 48 hours are critical in how this is handled," he said, adding that "when a party holds itself out as the guardian of values, this is not helpful."
Foley's sudden resignation came at the end of a week that had delivered a series of blows to Republican hopes in November. A National Intelligence Estimate asserted that the war in Iraq is fueling new threats from Islamic jihadists faster than the United States and allies can contain them, then a new book by Bob Woodward of The Washington Post said the administration's private assessments of Iraq are far worse than officials are telling the public. Taken together, GOP strategists said, the events of the past 10 days reversed what some Republicans had seen as a modest rebound in September after the worst days of the summer.
By yesterday, a number of GOP strategists reported widespread gloom about the party's prospects, combined with intense anger at the House leadership.
Joe Gaylord, who was the top adviser to Newt Gingrich (Ga.) when Republicans seized control of the House in 1994, was pessimistic about the party's midterm prospects. He said the fallout from Foley's resignation comes "very close" to ensuring a Democratic victory in November.
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