Foley Fallout: Evangelicals Will Turnout...Will Dems? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Two minute warning

In light of the recent GOP meltdown that is being driven by the Mark Foley scandal, many Democrats are salivating at the possibility that this "values" scandal will suppress the turnout of Republican conservatives and evangelicals. Initially, it seemed quite plausible and it may well come to pass, but I'm beginning to think that the outcome may be just the opposite. I realize this is simply speculation but I think it warrants exploring. My first concerns emerged yesterday as numerous GOP operatives began spinning the scandal and it continued today as I read an article in the conservative newspaper, The Washington Times.

Republican campaign strategists and conservatives fear former Rep. Mark Foley's sex scandal will depress turnout among the party's "value voter" base in November, further complicating Republican efforts to keep control of Congress.

"A social conservative may think, 'Well, Democrats aren't going to represent the legislation I want to see passed, but the Republicans aren't representing me,' " said Tom McClusky, vice president of government affairs at the Family Research Council.

"They may just decide to stay home," according to Mr. McClusky, who said many conservative voters are rightly "disgusted."

A survey of Republican state chairmen nationwide revealed little discontent about how their party's House leadership has handled the scandal, calling the affair a case "of one sick individual" who has since resigned from Congress.

Phyllis Schlafly, among the conservative movement's icons, said religious voters should follow the advice former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher gave to the first President George Bush when he was considering what to do about Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait: "This is no time to go wobbly, George."

"There is too much at stake, starting with the importance of judicial nominations," said the Eagle Forum president and a conservative not averse to public criticism of fellow Republicans.

The Rev. Wiley Drake, conservative activist and one of the vice presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention, predicted the disgust among conservative voters over the Foley situation will actually propel them to the polls next month.

Yesterday, Rush Limbaugh was exhorting his listeners to keep the faith; arguing that the conservative mission, though damaged by such events and struggling to overcome a general negative sentiment among the electorate, is still on the precipice of finishing its essential mission...changing the Supreme Court for the next generation. In that regard, I think the Democrats may be relying on a fundamental belief that is a mainstay of football jargon, "The best offense is a good defense". I think there is a belief amongst Democratic leaders that, given the mood of the country, they simply need to hold off the last drive of a team that is intent on reshaping the judicial terrain in order to institute a rigidly defined set of values.

Continuing with the football analogy, I view the GOP as having started out far behind a number of years ago...but they have scored the last couple touchdowns. They're also playing this game on their home field...they hold a majority in the House and the Senate and they have a Republican president...all of which allows them to play offense and set the agenda. They also have a devout fan base that has been loyal for years and they have held fast to a dream of the ultimate victory for years...the Super Bowl championship...if you will.

Finally, there is little doubt that these fans view this midterm election as the timeframe for a game winning drive in the waning minutes of a hard fought battle. Consequently, the fact that they have had too bench a player for misconduct is distracting and disturbing, but not such that it will cause them to blink and let this final victory slip away. In fact, I would argue that this misstep actually steels the will of the supporters to redouble their efforts to root the team onto victory.

The equation for the Democrats is much the opposite. They enter the final minutes of the battle in the lead, seen to be a heavy favorite by most of those in the know, and now they are also the beneficiary of the benching of an opposing starter. Conventional wisdom says that their fans are confident...everything they encounter reinforces their belief that a win is at hand and they now believe the opponent has faltered and may not be able to bring the final push. They merely have to keep the Republicans out of the end zone until the clock expires. In fact, some of their fans may feel comfortable enough to head for the parking lot in order to beat the traffic...and therein lay the unthinkable risk.

Given the GOP's superior get out the vote machine and their cash advantage, the Foley scandal may actually prove to be the ultimate counter intuitive catalyst needed to push the GOP and their loyal following to make that all important final effort. It may also serve to anesthetize a number of Democrats which could mean that some of them...convinced that victory has now been assured...may choose to stay at home. I've got to state that I have never been a fan of a prevent defense in football and I feel no differently in politics. I can only hope that my analogy proves to be wrong.

Daniel DiRito | October 4, 2006 | 3:03 PM
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