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GOP turmoil

"Several GOP lawmakers in tough races said voters are not reacting as harshly to the scandal as they first feared, buying Hastert even more room to save his job," says the Washington Post.  "Still, lawmakers are privately furious with how Hastert and other leaders have handled the scandal...  And many expect that the worst is still to come." 

A Wall Street Journal story leads with Reynolds' plight in his Buffalo district and the party's consideration of "two separate paths.  One is for the party to hang tough and blame Democrats for the timing of the disclosures.  The other is to take full responsibility and move on -- while presumably sacrificing a top leader, like Mr. Hastert...  The hang-tough strategy is being urged by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, conservative talk-show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, and increasingly, according to several Republicans, by party Chairman Ken Mehlman and White House political advisers." 

"...[I]n another sign that the Foley scandal is taking its toll on Republican House leaders, Houston City Councilwoman Shelley Sekula Gibbs, the GOP write-in candidate in the race to replace DeLay, has decided not to accept Hastert's offer to travel to Texas and help her raise money for her race...  Just last Sunday... Sekula Gibbs proudly told supporters that Hastert would be traveling to the district to help her raise some badly needed funds," Roll Call reports. 

The Wall Street Journal reports that Hastert "is to appear with President Bush at a political event in Chicago next week." 

The New York Times front-pages that Hastert "has no distinct power base in Congress, not much of a national reputation and, in an age of television politics, little polish in front of the camera.  But Mr. Hastert has survived and survived to become the longest-serving Republican speaker." 

In National Journal's Political Insiders Poll this week, those surveyed were asked to predict how many House seats the Foley scandal would cost the GOP.  "Responses ranged from 0 seats to 10 or more seats.  The average of the responses from the 71 Republican insiders was a loss of 2.6 seats, while the average from the 73 Democratic insiders was a more aggressive 3.4...  In their comments, insiders from both parties cited the Republican leadership's handling of the situation as a factor in their calculation, rather than just former-Rep. Foley's actions."

Per the Chicago Tribune, "Fox News reported that internal Republican polling indicates the party could now lose as many as 50 seats in the House." 

McClatchy points out that recent "[p]olls do not yet make it clear what the impact on the election might be.  A new Pew Research Center poll indicated that the scandal isn't moving voters as much as the war in Iraq.  An Associated Press-Ipsos poll conducted this week found that about half of voters say disclosure of scandal and corruption in Congress will be very or extremely important."  But the Pew poll also "found that 57 percent of white evangelicals are inclined to vote for Republican congressional candidates in the midterm elections, a 21-point drop in support among this critical part of the GOP base."

Republicans continue to try to regain some leverage with the base by charging that the scandal blew up because of a partisan plot to hurt the party shortly before the midterm elections.  "In an interview with NewsMax.com late Thursday, Hastert said anyone who knew of the sordid instant messages Foley was sending to congressional pages should have notified authorities immediately...  As evidence that Democrats were involved in the timing, Hastert said the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had Foley's explicit electronic messages before Hastert did." 

The Financial Times points out that "Mr Hastert borrowed a strategy recently employed by [Bush], of shifting attention from the incident to the motivation of those behind leaking it.  When parts of the National Intelligence Estimate were leaked, noting that Iraq had galvanised Islamic terrorists, Mr Bush said the leak had 'political purposes.'" 

The Washington Times says that while Republicans in Washington have a game plan for getting beyond the scandal, "outside the Beltway, some state Republican leaders say the party remains in disarray, with no cohesive message on how to deal with the daily sordid developments and keep the races from becoming a national indictment on the party.  'We haven't really seen much of a plan'..., said Saul Anuzis, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party." 

The Los Angeles Times front-pages a look at the risks run by gay politicians and operatives in the GOP, particularly at a time when social conservatives play such a prominent role in the party.  "In fact, with the exception of the military, perhaps no institution in America has as strong a 'don't ask, don't tell' approach as the Republican Party." 

Vice President Cheney is in Sarasota, FL today raising money for a House candidate.  Sen. Barack Obama (D) is also in Florida today campaigning for his party's gubernatorial nominee, Jim Davis, and raising money for the state party and the Democratic Senate campaign committee.