Monday, October 16, 2006

Another One Bites the Dust...

By most accounts, Curt Weldon is trailing in his race for re-election against Democrat Joe Sestak. It looks like the Fat Lady is singing, in the form of an FBI raid on the home of his daughter, who is a highly-compensated lobbyist with Russian and Serbian clients who apparently benefit from her father's actions in Congress.

With all the talk about pre-emptive post-mortems of the Republican failure on election day, I'll toss my two cents in on a side that has gotten little attention: Larry Sabato's. If the GOP loses its House majority, it will be for many reasons: arrogance in power, loss of the reformist mantle, the 6 year itch, and others. But despite the litany of complaints against Republicans over how they have run the Congress, a fatal flaw may prove to be that they have given away too many seats.

Consider how the GOP has shot itself in the foot in slam-dunk GOP districts. Tom DeLay's seat is probably gone. Bob Ney's seat looks lost. Don Sherwood reportedly had an affair and choked his paramour, (he's run ads apologizing for it). Mark Foley's is likely lost. Curt Weldon's appears headed for a Democratic takeover. Tom Reynolds has an easy seat, that may be lost solely because of Foley. That's at least 6 easy-win GOP seats that the majority party has given away! If Democrats retake the House, it will probably be by a margin of 6 or less.

Like the basketball team that misses free throws, House Republicans may see their majorities lost by unforced errors that were entirely in their own control.

And another point: Jim Geraghty comments out that whatever else happens, the next set of Congressional GOP leaders are likely to be more aggressive conservatives, as moderate GOPers are defeated for re-election. While it is almost always true that swing districts tend to elect moderate Members of Congress, who are the first ones defeated, that's probably not the case this year. Look at the endangered Republicans, and their lifetime ratings from the ACU:

Rob Simmons -- 54%
Chris Shays -- 47%
Clay Shaw -- 82%
Chris Chocola -- 95%
John Hostettler -- 90%
Mike Sodrel -- 92%
Geoff Davis -- 88%
Heather Wilson -- 82%
Tom Reynolds -- 88%
Steve Chabot -- 98%
Deborah Pryce -- 79%
Jim Gerlach -- 67%
Curt Weldon -- 70%
Don Sherwood -- 87%
Henry Bonilla -- 91%
Thelma Drake -- 92%
Dave Reichert -- 64%

If that's representative of the group that ends up losing on election day - which seems likely but is not a sure bet - it definitely doesn't qualify as the liberal wing of the GOP. Rather, it looks more like the conference as a whole - one or two at the left end of the party, a few moderates, and about half of them legitimate conservatives.

I suspect that the next set of GOP leaders will be more aggressive reformers, and perhaps more conservative, but it will be because they have seen that it is political suicide to ignore Republican principles. I don't think it will be because moderates have been culled.

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