WASHINGTON, Oct. 2
In the next 48 hours, House Republicans will know if the Mark Foley matter will cost them control of the House for sure -- or, just maybe.
Foley political questions to ponder:
1. How worried are House Republicans that Foley will agree to do a tell-all interview, focusing not just on his behavior with pages, but on his dealings with the Leaders themselves?
2. How much unity remains between Hastert, Boehner, Blunt, and Reynolds on how to deal with this?
3. How can the leadership maintain Conference unity and communication with members scattered all over the country?
4. Which reporters and news organizations will the leadership staff key off of to calibrate whether they have "contained" the story or not?
5. How soon will every last dollar of Foley money in NRCC/RNC and campaign coffers end up with charity?
6. Which reporters have the best line into former Foley staffers (and the stories they can tell -- again, not about Foley, but about his relationships with his leadership colleagues)?
7. How quickly will White House, RNC, NRCC, and NRSC officials begin to spin that the reason they are going to lose the midterms is Foley's personal behavior (and not how they handled the Foley case, how they have run Congress, the Iraq war, or anything else)?
8. When will the first presidential words on this be uttered and will they help the House Republicans turn the corner?
9. What is the Republicans best hope for achieving the the "everybody does it" paradigm that is the best friend of a scandal-plagued party?
10. What does Rahm think?
Here's how one senior Democratic aide summed up the Foley situation this morning for The Note: "The R's desperately want this to be about whether or not they knew of the sexually explicit e-mails/I.M.'s.
"Most parents we talked to over the weekend (including my own conservative R mom) feel the issue is that the R's were given and ignored a huge warning with the first set of e-mails."
"Had there been an investigation at that time, the sexually explicit emails may have been uncovered. But, Members lost that opportunity when the R's chose to protect Foley instead of those kids."
The Old Media and the liberal bloggers share that attitude, and Republican strategists know it.
The goal for Republicans on L'Affaire Foley is to drive home the message that they have nothing to hide. That's why Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) called for a Justice Department investigation into not only Foley's actions but also Congress's handling of the matter once it learned of the contacts. That's also why some Republicans in the toughest races -- Shays and Simmons in Connecticut, Wilson in New Mexico, and Fitzpatrick in Pennsylvania -- have taken steps to show some independence on Foley.
The Speaker will continue his effort to rid the GOP majority of Foley's taint by meeting with the Clerk of the House, Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), and his staff today to review ways to protect pages while they are serving in the nation's Capitol. The Speaker will also discuss how Congress can protect pages after their program concludes. Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean advises that it is "likely" that the Speaker will be making a series of media interviews regarding Foley.