Can the Dems Take Back the House?
Yesterday, a decorated Vietnam veteran, Republican Congressman "Duke Cunningham, plead guilty to taking bribes. He seems like a fairly decent guy who went badly awry. In his tearful apology, he said: "I broke the law, concealed my conduct and disgraced my high office. I know that I will forfeit my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions, and most importantly, the trust of my friends and family."
Although it's become a political cliche--one used in nearly every article/report I've read on the subject--there really does seem to be a "culture of corruption" in the Grand Old Party. It's hard to imagine Cunningham having the impulse to do this in an earlier era, but because the line between legal and illegal graft has lately become so thin--Cheney and Halliburton, the lobbyist-politician dosey doe, et al--Cunningham could easily run up to the trough for a little chow. (In fact, a more cunning corrupt politician would have covered his tracks more ably than Duke.)
But does all of this add up to a potential Midterm win for the Dems? Sadly and weirdly, probably not. According to Congressional Quarterly (sorry, no link--I get their daily email "Midday Update"), of the 435 House seats, only 55 (13%) are "even remotely" competitive. A party needs 218 to control the House, and the GOP has 195 pretty much sewn up. The Dems would have to overwhelmingly win the "competitive" races, and many of them are still skewed heavily in the Republicans' favor.
Duke Cunningham is a case in point. Although he just fled the Congress on corruption charges, his seat will almost certainly go to a Republican--there are seven GOP candidates there, and one lone Dem.
It may be possible to envision a 2008 majority, but even with Republicans doing the perp walk for corruption (Ohio Republican Bob Ney is implicated in the Abramoff corruption scandal, DeLay remains under indictment), loyal voters aren't likely to cross the line next year.
If there's a silver lining, it's that the GOP may well do far more damage to themselves in a leadership role than in the minority. By 2008, the Republican Party may have done to itself what the Dems have failed for 25 years to do--blow away the last vestiges of the modern conservative movement.