In the closing weeks of the 2006 Congressional Elections, Republican incumbents should be very worried about the impact of Congressman Foley’s sexual misdeeds and the widespread cover-up by top Republican Congressional leaders. Many Republicans in Congress have carefully crafted public images as “independent” or “moderate” politicians that often do not reflect their actual voting records. Voting for these Republicans helps keep in power the same Congressional leaders involved in the cover-up. This in turn keeps in place the unpopular, corrupt policies of the Republicans on issues like Iraq, media concentration, campaign finance, prescription drugs and taxes.
Will the voters make the connection in local races? If they do, Republican Congressmen like Mike Castle in Delaware and Wayne Gilchrest in Maryland may see safe seats seriously threatened. Democratic challengers like Dennis Spivack in Delaware and Jim Corwin in Maryland may quickly see large increases in the amount of campaign cash flowing into their efforts. If they get funds to air TV and radio ads making the connection between the Republican incumbents and keeping the corrupt national leaders in control of Congress, campaigns like these will show surprising life.
Foley is part of a national pattern of Republican scandals. Delay in Texas, Ney and Taft in Ohio, Cunningham in California are joined by hundreds of other Republican politicians mired in various public scandals at all levels of government reaching into almost every state in the nation. Jack Abramoff opened many eyes and scandals keep piling on. Republicans are facing an internal corruption crisis. However, the Foley incident has the strongest potential to influence the Election.
Foley victimized children. His actions are likely to be the final straw for large numbers of Christian voters. The Republican Right has used gay-bashing to gain Christian votes in many past elections and the tactic looks likely to come back to bite them this Fall. Many of these Christians will react strongly against the Republican scandals by voting Democratic or not voting. These voters are already uneasy with the financial corruption tied to the Republicans. Republicans cannot win in many places around the nation without these voters.
Senate candidates will be impacted as well by the public revulsion and outrage against Republican hypocrisy. Democrat Harold Ford is looking more like a winner in Tennessee. Republican Lincoln Chafee is more likely to lose in Rhode Island. Missouri and Montana are looking much better for the Democrats. Republicans are very unlikely to retain the Senate seat in Pennsylvania. Even Snowe in Maine may face a newly reinvigorated challenge from her Democratic opponent. Moral issues might be the key to outcomes in those states and not be favorable to the Republicans.
The Bush White House is intentionally downplaying the significance of the Foley emails and instant messages. Those efforts are actually linking the White House to Foley in the minds of many voters. The Republican Congressional campaign committee efforts to get Foley to donate his campaign kitty of $2.7 million will hurt Congressman Tom Reynolds who heads the committee. Reynolds has been implicated in the cover-up along with the Speaker of the House and the Republican Majority Leader according to published reports.
Tom Delay is not the only Congressional Republican leader to be disgraced this year. Unlike Delay, the current scandal is unlikely to be off the front pages of newspapers or televised news reports before the voters go to the polls.