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GOP turmoil

The Chicago Tribune says "further signs of discontent" among conservatives emerged yesterday when Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council questioned in an article "whether gay Republican staffers and members of Congress were working behind the scenes to undercut the political agenda of religious conservatives."  Noting that Foley and Kolbe are gay, and that former Clerk Jeff Trandahl is a board member of the Human Rights Campaign, Perkins wrote, "'The GOP will have to decide whether it wants to be the party that defends the traditional moral and family values that our nation was built upon...  Put another way, does the party want to represent values voters, or Mark Foley and friends?'" 

White House spokesman Tony Snow flatly rejected the idea yesterday that his fundraising appearance for Speaker Dennis Hastert this weekend would be awkward, given the timing, and said "the message is that we're standing by the Speaker, and also that I'm going to be telling people what the President is doing and why."  He acknowledged that the Foley scandal "certainly hasn't been a lift" in terms of the President's or the party's poll standing.

The New York Times traveled to Minnesota, where voters said "the topics that have had Washington hopping in the final weeks before the midterm elections - Congressional scandals, new books saying there was administration in-fighting over the war in Iraq - were little more than distant political chatter, best tuned out.  The conclusions drawn by Republicans and Democrats alike sounded a similar theme: People craved substance and not rhetoric."  

Embattled Rep. Chris Shays of Connecticut is one example of a Republican member who's hitting back hard over the Foley scandal.  The Hartford Courant notes how Shays fired back at his Democratic opponent and Sen. Ted Kennedy, who came to the district to campaign for her last week.  "'Dennis Hastert didn't kill anybody.'" 

Making a stop at the University of Miami yesterday, DNC chair Howard Dean criticized the GOP for its handling of the matter.  Per the Miami Herald, "Dean said Republican leaders had the opportunity to stand up for moral values when it came to Foley's conduct, but instead tried to save their 'political necks.'  Dean urged Democrats to challenge the GOP on the morality issue, saying Democratic stands on the environment, healthcare and other issues resonate with voters."