POLITICS
03/28/2008 02:46 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

House GOP Funk Worsens

For National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.), every week seems to bring a new set of problems. On Saturday night, things got even worse.

With Democrat Bill Foster's victory in the Illinois 14th District special election, Democrats now hold the seats occupied only 21 months ago by former Speaker Dennis Hastert (Ill.) and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Texas) -- the two GOP lawmakers who ran the House from 1998 to 2006.

Since September, Cole has faced a barrage of bad news:

• The NRCC lags behind the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee by nearly $30 million in cash on hand.

• GOP House leadership endured an embarrassing scuffle when Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) tried to fire Cole's top two staffers, during which Cole threatened to resign.

• There has been a wave of retirement announcements by veteran Republican lawmakers that will force the NRCC to defend what were once seen as safe GOP seats.

• Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) was indicted on 35 federal corruption charges, which puts another Republican-controlled district in play.

• And the FBI continues its criminal investigation into a brewing accounting scandal that centers on the former NRCC treasurer's activities.

But the GOP's defeat in Illinois' special election Saturday may trump those setbacks, at least in the short term. Cole and the House Republican leadership are blaming the loss directly on GOP candidate Jim Oberweis. A dairy owner who lost three consecutive statewide elections before Saturday, Oberweis has a long history of political baggage. He won the recent nomination without receiving the support of his Republican primary rival, state Sen. Chris Lauzen.

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