Sunday, April 22, 2007

Senate/House Still Look Bleak For GOP In '08

Obviously this is very early out and conditions could change, but Stu Rothenberg says the political environment for the GOP in the Senate is not so good for '08:

Republicans started off the 2008 election cycle on the defensive, and the last three months haven't done anything to change that. In fact, controversies over care at Walter Reed Hospital and the removal of U.S. attorneys by the White House have added to the GOP's problems.

Not only did Republicans lose their majority in the Democratic sweep of '06, but now they find themselves defending 21 of the 33 Senate seats up for election in '08. More importantly, there are few Republican opportunities and a number of states where Democrats could make gains.

Rothenberg lists three Republican seats as "Vulnerable": Norm Coleman's Minnesota seat, Susan Collins' Maine seat, and the Colorado seat vacated by Wayne Allard.

He places two Dems and two Repubs on the "Watch List": Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Gordon Smith (R-OR), and John Sununu (R-NH). (I would note on the plus side for Repubs that the strongest Democratic challenger to Gordon Smith in Oregon, Representative Peter DeFazio, has declined to run against Smith for the Senate seat.)

16 Republicans and 10 Democrats are listed as "Safe".

On the House side, the Washington Post reports today that ethical woes and criminal investigations are putting the spotlight back on the GOP's "Culture of Corruption," and making it very difficult for Repubs to win the 17 seats they need to retake power in the House:

The abrupt resignations last week of two Republican House members from their sensitive committee assignments have thrust lingering legal and ethics issues back into the limelight, potentially complicating GOP efforts to retake Congress next year.

On successive days, Wednesday and Thursday, Reps. John T. Doolittle (Calif.) and Rick Renzi (Ariz.) disclosed FBI raids on their wives' businesses. The men proclaimed their innocence, but the raids exposed their legal jeopardy. The announcements were only the most recent in a series of developments that have kept the focus on the old ethical and legal clouds that helped chase the Republican Party from power on Capitol Hill.

Two other lawmakers face possible ethics investigations amid allegations that they pressured a U.S. attorney in New Mexico to indict Democrats before last year's fall elections.

Rep. Gary G. Miller (R-Calif.), under investigation by the FBI for a series of land deals, is now facing Democratic ads alleging that he lied about a land sale that he declined to pay taxes on.

Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) still faces FBI scrutiny of his work as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and this month, his campaign filings showed that he has racked up $892,951.69 in legal fees since July. And for the first time, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) reported significant legal fees -- $15,620.60 -- in his campaign filing this month, as he tries to stave off accusations that he used taxpayer-funded congressional staff and resources to do political work.

"Everybody's kind of a little bit numb," said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.). "There's this, 'What else can happen now?' feeling going around here."

The Post article notes that Democrats William Jefferson and Allan Mollohan remain under investigation for their own alleged wrongdoing, but the main thrust of most of the criminal investigations has been against Republicans, which is harming the GOP's attempts to portray the Democratic-controlled Congress as "do-nothings":

For the GOP, the spate of bad news over ethics has clouded its efforts to portray the new Democratic majority as ineffective, while it has helped Democrats stay on the political offensive. Ethics troubles loomed large last year in the Democrats' sweep of Congress. Republicans lost seats in Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, California, Arizona, Ohio, North Carolina and Montana, where ethical lapses were decisive. And Democrats will use the new ethics charges to remind voters why they pushed out the Republicans, said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Van Hollen goes on to say that with so many Republicans shelling out so much money for criminal lawyers, it seems almost certain that more shoes will drop in investigations that started before the Democrats retook control of the Congress in 2006 and that will just reinforce for voters why they threw the GOP bums out.


Amy Walter, political analyst at the Cook Report, tells The Politico that early action in these investigations could help Republicans by getting the bad news over long before the '08 elections. Early indictments would also allow Republican leaders to get indicted representatives to resign before primaries, allowing the party to avoid running "suspects" instead of candidates in the general election or having to make quick replacements (as they had to do with Mark Foley in Florida and Bob Ney in Ohio) or run write-in campaigns (as they had to with Tom Delay's old seat in Texas.)

House Minority Leader John Boehner and the current GOP leadership in the House at least recognize the problems these ethical lapses have caused their party. They moved very quickly to get both Doolittle and Renzi to step down from their committee seats, unlike last year when former House Speaker Denny Hastert wouldn't pressure disgraced Representative Bob Ney to resign his seat even after he had pled guilty to charges of conspiracy and filing false financial disclosure forms.

That says they will get Doolittle, Renzi and any other potential ethically-challenged party member to step down as quickly as possible. Still, no matter how Boehner and the GOP leadership handle these ethical lapses, having to replace half a dozen indicted Republican representatives before '08 surely won't help them erase the "Culture of Corruption" label from voters' minds.

The R-TX Senate seat now occupied by John Cornyn is likely to be up for grabs. Not only has Cornyn been the ultimate WH kitchen dog, but the Dems will be gunning for that seat, possibly with a chalenger with major name recognition and popularity, Bob Bullock. Even the Dems second and third choices are formidable. Admitedly, Cornyn hasn't been caught screwing someone he oughtn't, but he's hard even for the die-hard Repubs to get excited about. I am SO looking forward to Nov. 2008, and vindication.
I would love to see Cornyn go down, kicksiron. But I haven't seen his name on any endangered list yet. I will keep a close watch on that though.
I have been missing tracking this. It is difficult in a country that thinks broadband is another word for dial up.
Howard is even attacking opposition plans to fund a proper broadband roll out. I'm still hoping he goes down with his US Republican buddies.
I wonder how long a memory this country has, and how easily it's shaded and colored. 08 is many, many news cycles away.
cartledge, I'm hoping Howard goes too. You know, I've only had broadband for the last three years or so, but I sure do remember how frustrating dial-up was.

NYC, I believe the average American has the memory of about a week. I think they can just about remember what happened in the previous week's episode of Desperate Housewives. So '08 is a long way away. But the corruption has a cumulative effect too. So it does matter, but as you suggest, what happens closer to the election matters more.
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