DeLay’s fall won’t end corruption issue
By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Rep. Tom DeLay’s fall from power
amid a widening scandal robs Democrats of “Exhibit A” in their
allegations of Republican corruption, but analysts said on
Tuesday it was unlikely to put the issue behind Republicans
before November’s elections.
With control of Congress at stake in November, DeLay said
he was dropping his bid for re-election so the party would have
a better shot at keeping the Texan’s Republican-leaning seat in
the southern suburbs of Houston.
“I think I could have won the seat, but it would have been
nasty. It would have cost a fortune to do it,” DeLay told Fox
News. He said left-wing groups had made his race against
Democratic challenger Nick Lampson a rallying point.
The former House Republican leader, indicted in Texas on
campaign finance charges, also plans to resign from Congress.
The move came after his former deputy chief of staff last week
became the second DeLay aide to plead guilty to corruption
charges in a probe of disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack
Republicans hoped the resignation of DeLay, who has denied
any wrongdoing, would also help them get past a series of
scandals. Those include the indictment of top vice presidential
aide Lewis Libby in a probe into the leaking of a CIA
operative’s identity, and the guilty plea of Rep. Randy
Cunningham in a bribery case.
But analysts said the move would do little to help
Republicans escape the corruption issue as they fight to keep
Democrats from capturing the 15 seats needed to regain control
of the House of Representatives.
“The Republicans are whistling past the graveyard,” said
Cal Jillson, a political analyst at Southern Methodist
University in Dallas. “Democrats are going to prop DeLay up in
his chair and keep him alive for voters. They are going to play
the Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff card until November.”
Democrats said there were many other opportunities to make
a case about Republican corruption and abuse of power.
“DeLay may be gone, but nothing has changed,” said Rep.
Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the Democratic House
campaign committee. He cited the Congress’ failure to pass
ethics and lobbying reforms.
Democratic consultant Jenny Backus said DeLay’s departure
robbed Republican conservatives of a leader and weakened an
image of discipline and competency House Republicans had honed
“If DeLay is indicted it will be a huge blow to Republicans
whether he is in Congress or sitting in Virginia,” she said.
DeLay survived a primary last month by winning 62 percent
of the vote against three little known Republican challengers,
but faced a much tougher test in November against Lampson.
“This is probably the worst day of his campaign because he
knows that any Republican who replaces me on the ballot will
win this seat,” DeLay said of Lampson, a former congressman
whose battle with DeLay would have been one of the most
expensive and closely watched House fights in the country.
DeLay’s district gave President George W. Bush 64 percent
of the vote in the 2004 White House race, but DeLay won in 2004
with only 55 percent.
DeLay’s retirement “gives us a much better opportunity to
win this seat,” House Republican campaign committee spokesman
Carl Forti said. “He did what was best for the party and
Lampson’s campaign manager, Mike Malaise, said the Democrat
already had raised nearly $2.5 million and was in good shape to
take on any Republican entrant.
“A lot of the folks who are saying that Republicans are in
better shape in this race with DeLay out of it are the same
people who were saying two days ago that Tom DeLay couldn’t be
beaten,” Malaise said.