After enlarging their majority in the past two elections, House Republicans have begun to fear that public attention to members' travel and relations with lobbyists will make ethics a potent issue that could cost the party seats in next year's midterm races.
In what Republican strategists call "the DeLay effect," questions plaguing House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) are starting to hurt his fellow party members, who are facing news coverage of their own trips and use of relatives on their campaign payrolls. Liberal interest groups have begun running advertising in districts where Republicans may be in trouble, trying to tie the incumbents to their leaders' troubles.
Among those endangered are at least two committee chairmen and several other senior members. Congressional districts that traditionally have been safe for Republicans could become more competitive, according to party officials.
The article then goes on to hone in on Coingate in Ohio, which I think could have a huge effect. For while I don't think it will have any impact at all on Republican credibility at the national level, it could provide a much-needed lever to tilt Ohio back into the Democratic column in 2008, which could once again be decisive in the presidential race. Even if Ohio was stolen in 2004, a lot of the voter suppression and vote-counting shenanigans would be non-issues with Democrats in control of the state's voting machinery (although I suspect the Republicans and media will tell a different story, and that their allegations will be... revealingly specific).
The importance of painting the so-called "moral values" GOP as corrupt, venal money-chasers cannot be understated, and I'm glad to hear that the Democrats are actually trying to take advantage of this opportunity. Remember, "restoring honor and dignity to the White House" was a major theme in 2000, with the Republicans painting themselves as the super-integrityful antidote to eight years of Democratic sleaze. Let's remind the voters of that, and of how Republicans have raised sleaze to an art form while they've been in power. Let's also remind them that wealthy fatcats are the real elitists, and unlike liberals, they are only concerned with consolidating and enriching their own wealth and power.
I'm not saying that we should ignore substantive policy and all the Republicans' glaring failures (and destructive successes), just that the Democrats need to rely on a two-pronged strategy that attacks the Republicans on policy *and* character.
We should also work on getting Bob Shrum to switch sides so he can work his "magic" for the Republicans...
Correction: I saw "Ohio" and mistakenly made the association to Coingate, but it is not mentioned in the article (Ouch). Instead, it talks about Bob Ney and his connections to DeLay and Abramoff.
But hey, the more dirt on Ohio Republicans, the better. I'm skeptical of Democratic prospects in the South, so discrediting Republicans in pivotal states like Ohio and Florida is vital.
Assuming fair elections, of course. Without those, it doesn't much matter what we do, unless we can secure tamper-proof margins.