Sunday, September 02, 2007

GOP More Vigilant on Ethics Charges

The ethical questions surrounding Members like Tom DeLay, Bob Ney, Duke Cunningham, Mark Foley, and others were a significant reason the GOP got routed in the 2006 midterms. As Members such as Ted Stevens, Don Young, John Doolittle, Jerry Lewis, and others are forced to answer questions about earmarks and donations, 2008 shapes up as another year where a 'perfect storm' over ethics could form, and again hurt GOP candidates.

For that reason, it only made sense that GOP Senators would deal aggressively with Larry Craig when his arrest and plea came to light. The Politico reports that Mitch McConnell was not shy about letting Craig know that staying in the Senate would be a painful choice:

But the Republican leader had asserted himself this week to force his Craig out.

He spoke to Craig three times over the course of the week, according to a GOP aide: first, to tell him about the ethics investigation; second, to tell him about the leadership decision regarding his committee assignments; and finally, Friday afternoon when Craig called McConnell to tell him he would be stepping down.

The possibilty of Craig's resignation did not come up during the first two phone calls, the aide said.

But why has David Vitter not been treated the same way?

Leaders refrained from forcing Vitter out because a Democrat resides in Louisiana's governor's mansion and would appoint his replacement, but Republicans control Idaho, so there is no fear of the party losing Craig's seat, political scientist Sabato argued.

This is a logical conclusion. If Bobby Jindal wins the Governor's race (as expected), expect Republican colleagues to start to ask Vitter questions. He'll need to be able to demonstrate that he's gotten past the DC Madame scandal.

And more importantly, Republican leaders will need to deal with the other Representatives and Senators whose ethical situations might embarrass fellow candidates in 2008. One wonders if Mitch McConnell has called any other Senators and had conversations like the ones he had with Craig.

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