In the most recent USA Today/Gallup poll, 59% of likely voters surveyed nationwide said they would back the Democratic candidate for the House in November, while only 36% said they would back the Republican candidate. In the same poll, a month before the Mark Foley scandal broke, the major parties were tied among likely voters in midterm elections.
National Republican operatives, who don’t want their names published, are conceding that Democrats may indeed pick up the 15 net seats they need to win a majority in the House.
Last week congressional hearings on the Foley scandal began that could bring even more bad news for Republicans.
But at the same time, many leaders of state Republican Party organizations, who are close to the grassroots, disagree. State GOP leaders who talked to HUMAN EVENTS said the “Foley fallout” would have minimal impact on their party’s base. A number of them said the more recent news that North Korea appears to have tested a nuclear bomb would help their party revive the national security issue to its advantage.
“Conservatives are disenchanted with Foley,” Michigan State GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis said. “But they also realize this is an individual problem and not an institutional problem.” Anuzis cited the party organization’s recent telephone and door-to-door canvassing throughout Michigan’s 58 counties, concluding that “even though some folks are upset with Foley, they also realize this was a case of someone’s not having the personal moral compass. It’s not an institutional issue.”
Regarding North Korea, Anuzis feels “anytime the issues turn to foreign affairs or the War on Terror, Republicans are better off. This is our perceived strength by the American people. The Clintons and Kerrys do not have a lot of credibility when it comes to standing strong.”
Nebraska’s Republican National Committeeman Hal Daub, a former U.S. House member, said the Foley fallout “may have had an adverse affect on early voting, particularly affecting absentee ballot voting. With the number of people voting early, it may have done its damage.” He quickly added, however, that while the “Foley business may have done its damage already, it’s fading rather quickly.”
Daub also said reports of North Korea’s nuclear test would help Republican chances. “It’s not so much that it takes Foley off the front pages but it reinforces that the world is a dangerous place and makes things harder for the pablum-pushers on the Democratic left,” he said.
Jared Woodfill, Republican chairman of Harris County (Houston), Texas, said, “I hear all the national stories about the Foley scandal’s depressing Republican turnout and I haven’t seen any of it here. We have a big contingent of evangelical conservatives in our party organization and not one has ever hinted not supporting the party over this business.” Woodfill said he has “lately heard lots about North Korea and how it shows why we need Republicans in office.”
“I don’t think the Foley business hurts in West Virginia,” said State GOP Chairman Doug McKinney.
Recalling how a major volunteer effort twice put his state in George W. Bush’s column, McKinney said that the state party “is having its best effort yet at signing up people to go door to door and do other volunteer jobs for Republican candidates. If anything, the Foley story has our people fired up—they remember how Democrats ignored [sex] scandals involving many in their own party, including their last President.”
The father of a U.S. Marine officer who just returned from Iraq and himself a veteran, McKinney said that the North Korea story would remind people that “Bill Clinton and the Democrats cut the defense budget and cut down on intelligence. And I have a motto: Don’t ever count out [Bush political operative] Karl Rove. Watch him oversee a media effort this month that will ask why North Korea has nuclear technology, why we sent them aid, and just who cut down on intelligence.”