Sex and Scandal: Foley Case Jolts GOP

ByJOHN YANG via logo

Oct. 8, 2006 — -- The latest headline to grip Capitol Hill comes from the Los Angeles Times: A former House page tells the paper anonymously that former Rep. Mark Foley's online flirtation led to sex in the lawmaker's Washington townhouse when the young man was 21.

And a Florida congresswoman says she's learned Foley was turned away from the page dorm late one night in 2002 or 2003.

The reports are the latest revelations in a scandal that initially centered on lewd electronic messages exchanged between Foley and underage pages. Each successive revelation has been seen deepening the troubles for Republicans, who are trying to retain control of Congress in November's mid-term elections.

Before Foley resigned in disgrace more than a week ago, about 40 GOP seats were thought to be in play. Now, eight more may be competitive, including one held by the man charged with keeping Republicans in power, Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y.

Top Republicans acknowledge they'd probably lose the House if the election were held today. They only have a month to try to turn things around.

"This is going to be the most difficult 30 days in the last 12 years that we've been in the majority," said Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., on CBS' "Face the Nation."

But on ABC News' "This Week," Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, called a month "an eternity in politics."

Still, Time and Newsweek both published polls Sunday showing that a majority of Americans now want Democrats to win control of Congress in November.

In the Newsweek poll, 53 percent of those questioned said they want the Democrats to win Congress, including 10 percent of the Republicans in the poll. Fifty-two percent of those questioned said they believe House Speaker Dennis Hastert knew about Foley's inappropriate behavior and tried to cover it up.

To win in November, Democrats need to knock off 15 Republicans, and they are increasingly optimistic that Reynolds will be one of them.

After eight years representing upstate New York, Reynolds was thought to be so safe that he was put in charge of raising money for other GOP candidates, but now Democrats have hit the airwaves with ads accusing him of not doing enough to stop Foley from harassing pages.

"Reynolds not only failed to act; he actually urged the Florida congressman to run for office again, possibly putting more kids at risk," one ad states.

In the wake of the Foley scandal, independent handicappers have changed their assessment of the Reynolds' race against Democrat Jack Davis from solid Republican to a toss-up. Polls show Reynolds trailing.

Reynolds this weekend released a new ad in which he apologized for not acting more aggressively on the Foley matter.

"I trusted that others had investigated," Reynolds said in the ad. "Looking back, more should have been done and for that, I am sorry."

On "This Week," Putnam argued that Iraq, the economy and the Republican record will withstand fallout from the Foley scandal.

"Americans are talking about Iraq," Putnam said. "Americans are talking about the war on terrorism."

If Democrats win a majority in the House, "That would mean a Speaker Pelosi," he said. "Elections are about choices, and choices have consequences."

But another "This Week" guest, Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, disagreed.

"Six years of a Republican majority in the White House, in the House, and in the Senate and all you've got is fear," Emanuel told Putnam.

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