The House GOP leadership, including Speaker Dennis Hastert, issued a joint statement: "There is no place for him in this Congress. If he chooses not to resign his office, we will move to expel him immediately." Actually, Ney's lawyer had just announced Ney would resign, but Hastert and other GOP leaders were apparently taking no chances.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi had already criticized the GOP leaders: "Speaker Hastert and the Republican leadership have allowed Mr. Ney to remain on the public payroll for a month after his admission of guilt to criminal conspiracy charges. House Republican leaders have a long pattern of protecting Republican members, even when it comes at great cost to the American people." That last sentence sounds familiar to recent Democratic charges that Hastert was not tough enough, early enough, on Mark Foley.
On top of all the other scandal headaches the GOP has suffered, the Washington Post reported today that Democrats are "targeting the personal lives of Republicans in numerous key races as part of a campaign to capitalize on voter disgust with the messy personal lives and alleged character defects among elected officials."
Among the House races cited: New Jersey, where a Democratic candidate accused the Republican incumbent of "preying on young women in a fashionable D.C. nightclub." The Republican, Mike Ferguson, has strongly denied the charge.
In Pennsylvania, a Democratic challenger's ad accuses Rep. Don Sherwood of "attempting to strangle" a young girlfriend. Sherwood admits to the affair but denies there was ever any abuse. In New York, a Democrat is trotting out a 30-year-old drunken-driving arrest of his Republican opponent. In Ohio, Democrats are trying to win the seat of the disgraced Bob Ney by attacking GOP candidate Joy Padgett's "personal business dealings."
So, in a sense, the Democrats have moved the conversation from Mark Foley and his sexual overtures to House pages, using the Foley affair as a springboard to make charges against other Republicans. Democrats are doing that in part because they have not profited from the Foley scandal as much as they initially expected.
While the Foley affair may affect a very small number of races, the ABC poll showed voters seem much more concerned about issues that hit them directly, such as national security, Iraq and the economy. So, Democrats have begun to play hardball by challenging the ethics and honesty of individual GOP candidates.
In the past, Democrats have complained about similar tactics by Republicans. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Republicans should be flattered. But that will come as small consolation to the beleaguered Grand Old Party.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.