So House Republicans are worried about the impact of ethics controversies on their reelection chances in 2006? They should be. This midterm election shows every sign of becoming the most lethal to incumbents since the Republicans seized control of the House in 1994. Only this time, most of the incumbents are Republican.
Remember what was happening in the House twelve years ago? A flurry of ethics controversies had convinced the public that the reigning Democrats had grown decadent and corrupt. There was the House bank scandal, in which 325 members bounced 8, 331 checks at the House bank, without penalty. After that came stories about free medical care, free parking at National Airport, discounted gym membership, free flowers. (Seems almost quaint now, doesn't it?) Tom Foley, the speaker of the House, reacted to these problems in a way that made it seem he was trying to protect his Capitol Hill constituents, rather than reform Congress.
Sure enough, November 1994 came along, and with Newt Gingrich running on a reform campaign, the Democrats lost control of the House for the first time in half a century.
After a decade of dominance, the House Republicans have two problems. One is Tom DeLay, of course. The other is that they really are more conservative and more ideological than most Americans; the Terri Schiavo fiasco was proof of that.
How much will the GOP pay a price for public dissatisfaction? That depends on whether the Democrats can find their Newt Gingrich....