Momentum: Democrats start capitalizing on GOP woes

Posted on 11 Sep 2007 at 3:13pm
By Rick Leggio Political Animals

Craig resigns then recants; Thompson enters presidential race; top Bush aides leave are the Democrats bundling the GOP’s bad news?

Democrats have had a couple of good weeks.

Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho prolonged a damaging news cycle by deciding to try and overturn a charge he pleaded guilty to last month. The number of voters favoring Democrats over Republicans in generic, nationwide polls can only be increased by continued media coverage of the Republican senator’s scandal involving sex, hypocrisy and breech of public trust.

At a press conference on Sept. 1, Craig left himself legal wiggle room in stating his intention to resign from the Senate. A voice mail, exposing his legal wordplay centering on the word “intent,” became public after Craig misdialed his lawyer and the recipient handed Craig’s voicemail over to the media.

Last week, Democrats welcomed Fred Thompson’s entrance into the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Splitting the GOP’s fundamentalist Christian base [Thompson] from its pro-business, small-government base [Giuliani, Romney] helps Democrats profoundly. Thompson and Giuliani drawing blood during the primary cycle will weaken the eventual winner as a candidate for president in the general election campaign.

Polls already favor a Democrat over a Republican in the presidential contest next year. The two bases of the Republic Party clobbering each other in the primaries only leaves a weaker candidate to face the eventual Democratic nominee next spring. Notice what pains their Democratic counterparts go to in not scarring each other for the general election.

The two front-running Democratic candidates are beating Giuliani, Thompson and Romney in the majority of head-to-head statewide polls of presidential preference, often referred to as GE or general election polls.

Barack Obama, I very much regret to report, is just about out of the race based on primary polling, except for his home state of Illinois. Democratic state primary voters appear to be weighing electability very early and heavily, culling the field to Clinton and Edwards. As might be expected, Clinton leads in Northeastern and Western coastal states while Edwards leads (or is on track to lead) in many Midwestern and Southern states, and is picking up steam in key Mountain states.

It’s still Clinton’s race to lose, but Edwards’ continued momentum could change all that.

On the Republican side, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mitt Romney get the nomination after Giuliani and Thompson deflate.

I believe the country will be well served with either Edwards or Clinton as its next president. Momentum is building for Democrats. The Democratic Party has learned how to play hardball when it comes to capitalizing on the negatives of the Republican Party to build Democratic momentum.

The second half of August was marked by the announcement of three high-level resignations from the Bush administration: Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and Press Secretary Tony Snow. During the same two-week period, two more GOP leaders, John Warner of Virginia and Larry Craig of Idaho, announced their intentions to resign, but this time from the U.S. Senate. (Craig has since said he will not resign if he can get his guilty plea reversed.) By the end of the first week of September, another Republican senator, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, announced his decision not to run for re-election.

Even the most apathetic of Americans had to have noticed and probably began questioning the ability of the Republican Party to lead our country going forward. I suspect the fact that all these GOP woes coincided around Labor Day was not completely accidental.

Democrats trumpet their successes continually, just as Republicans do. Unlike Republicans, though, Democrats have not seemed able to capitalize on the gaffes, wrong-doings, and scandals of their opponents for a very long time. All that changed in the 2006 election cycle.

That June, GOP Speaker of the House Tom DeLay resigned from Congress under a pall of indictment. In August, Republican Bob Ney withdrew his bid for re-election to Congress from Ohio’s 18th District. In mid-September, Ney pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy and fraud charges. Congressman Mark Foley’s (R-Fla.) unseemly e-mails to underage male pages caused his resignation from Congress in late September last year.

GOP scandals hit a crescendo during the first week of November 2006. Head of the National Association of Evangelicals and Bush II administration darling Ted Haggard, suffered a week-long media meltdown surrounding his use of methamphetamine and a male prostitute. Congressman Bob Ney resigned from Congress on Nov. 3, 2006. Haggard was removed from his Evangelical leadership position on Nov. 5, 2006.

Two days later, the American electorate decided the fate of all 435 members of Congress and a third of all senators. We returned control of both chambers to the Democrats.

I think it is likely that Democratic strategists helped turn disparate GOP woes into a crescendo dooming what was called the Republican “culture of corruption” right before Americans voted in 2006.

Now it seems that Democratic strategists may have helped current GOP woes hit the evening news at roughly the same time, in a bundle, as it were. Their subpoena fight with Rove and Gonzalez could have been settled by agreement that the two administration stalwarts resign by a certain date, say Labor Day. Rumors ran strong that Sen. Hagel would not run again. Sen. Warner’s failure to raise money for re-election heralded his not running. To give his party a good chance of keeping his Senate seat, he would probably step down right around Labor Day. Sen. Craig’s arrest happened two-and-a-half months ago, but was only tipped to the press a week before Labor Day.

Democrats may have helped bundle what they guessed would happen (Warner and Hagel stating they would not seek re-election around Labor Day) with what they could help happen at roughly the same time. All these GOP woes making news at the same time breaks through voter apathy to make an impression one favorable to Democrats coast to coast and from the top to the bottom of the ticket.

E-mail RichardLeggio@gmail.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 14, 2007

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