Is GOP Overplaying Blago Hand?

Dec 15, 2008 10:51am

ABC News’ Rick Klein Reports: For a party still reeling from its election drubbing, the Blagojevich scandal must have seemed heaven-sent: A Democratic governor caught on tape allegedly trying to sell a Senate seat — the very seat that belonged to President-elect Barack Obama. The scandal has brought serial condemnations from Republicans (and, it should be noted, Democrats). Candidates for chairman of the Republican National Committee have been one-upping each other in pressing Obama on the issue.  Over the weekend, the RNC itself released a Web video — complete with ominous music, video clips, and old pictures of Obama and Blagojevich together — that ends with a simple statement: “Questions Remain.” But is this the right fight at the right time for the Republican Party? No less an eminence than Sen. John McCain says no. Asked about the RNC’s pressure on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” Sunday, McCain brushed back the party leaders whose banner he carried last month. “I think that the Obama campaign should and will give all information necessary,” McCain, R-Ariz., told Stephanopoulos. “You know, in all due respect to the Republican National Committee and anybody — right now, I think we should try to be working constructively together, not only on an issue such as this, but on the economy stimulus package, reforms that are necessary. And so, I don’t know all the details of the relationship between President-elect Obama’s campaign or his people and the governor of Illinois, but I have some confidence that all the information will come out.  It always does, it seems to me.” For the Republican Party, there’s a balance to be reached here. Surely GOPers can take sweet satisfaction in watching the Democrats wrestle with the tag of the same sort of “culture of corruption” that cost Republicans power in Congress in 2006. And there remain legitimate questions about Obama aides’ contacts with Blagojevich — questions that Obama himself has vowed to answer. The bar Obama has set — of the “most open and transparent” transition in history — seems to require more complete disclosure. So Republicans can rejoice at watching the Obama folks handle (and maybe mishandle) a scandal — but are they pressing too much, in a direction that won’t get them very far? Phil Singer, a veteran Democratic strategist who was Hillary Clinton’s campaign spokesman in the presidential campaign, blogs some advice for the RNC: “Keep Doing What You’re Doing.” Writes Singer: “There’s a major recession, people are worried for their jobs and their homes, and major industries are on the verge of disappearing. So the fact that the message coming out of the RNC is oriented around trying to manufacture a link between Blago and Obama seems strategically tone deaf.” He continues: “The Obama team should hope that this will be the RNC approach — it’s somewhat similar to the late 90s when the GOP pushed the Ken Starr probes and allowed WJC to focus on the people’s work.” The GOP has enjoyed some promising and unifying events since the election — including a successful filibuster of the auto bailout, and a 3-0 record in congressional races settled this month. With the Blagojevich scandal set for a slow burn, do they need to try to add fuel?

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