Monday, October 09, 2006

Could the Foley story backfire on Kellum?

Maybe so, according to the New York Times. They sent a crack reporter out to find what they were certain would be a story of how values voters were fleeing the republicans.

So they hit a local Mercy Me concert, and asked about Foley. And what they discovered apparently shocked them so much they actually PRINTED it.

From the New York Times, Evangelicals Blame Foley, Not Republican Party:

VIRGINIA BEACH, Oct. 7 — As word of Representative Mark Foley’s sexually explicit e-mail messages to former pages spread last week, Republican strategists worried — and Democrats hoped — that the sordid nature of the scandal would discourage conservative Christians from going to the polls.

But in dozens of interviews here in southeastern Virginia, a conservative Christian stronghold that is a battleground in races for the House and Senate, many said the episode only reinforced their reasons to vote for their two Republican incumbents in neck-and-neck re-election fights, Representative Thelma Drake and Senator George Allen.

They had serious problems with Foley, and would happily punish Hastert IF he was found culpable, but they were waiting for proof:

To a person, those interviewed said that Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois should resign if he knew of the most serious claims against Mr. Foley and failed to stop him. They said the degree of Mr. Hastert’s responsibility remained to be seen. Many said the issue had not changed their view of Congress because, in their opinion, it could not sink any lower.

Ouch. But apparently not one of these evangelicals were deceived by the democratic party response:

But all also noted that the swift Democratic efforts to broaden the scandal to Mr. Hastert and other Republicans had added more than a whiff of partisanship to the stink of the scandal.

Seems Kellum tried to make this an issue in the race:

As the details were emerging last Tuesday, for example, Phil Kellam, the Democrat challenging Ms. Drake, called on her to demand Mr. Hastert’s immediate resignation. In a statement, Mr. Kellam said the House Republican leaders’ “lack of attention” was “perhaps more shocking” than what Mr. Foley had done.

Drew Lankford, a spokesman for Mr. Kellam, said the attacks on Ms. Drake had “painted her into a corner” because she was unwilling to denounce Mr. Hastert. Ms. Drake has said she will wait for a thorough investigation into what Mr. Hastert knew. (The matter has come up less in the Senate race between Mr. Allen and Jim Webb, the Democrat.)

But it seems Kellum's strategy of politicizing this scandal could backfire:

Brian Courtney, a Republican-leaning sales manager attending the concert, said the Foley affair had led to “the kind of mudslinging one would expect to see at an election time like this.” He added that he was paying closer attention to the “values and character” of the candidates, and that he would probably vote Republican again....
Still, many conservative churchgoers said that what stood out for them was not the politics but the individual sin. “It is not going to affect my vote because I don’t live in Florida,” said Scott O’Connell, a mechanical engineer who described himself as a fundamentalist. “But there is a bigger moral issue which I would say is the prism I view this through: I do not believe in homosexuality.”

David Thomas, a father taking his family to the concert, said that he, too, was leaning toward voting Republican and that the scandal only reinforced his conservative Christian convictions. “That is the problem we have in society,” Mr. Thomas said. “Nobody polices anybody. Everybody has a ‘right’ to do whatever.”

In an interview on Friday, Pastor Anne Gimenez of the 15,000-member Rock Church here said the scandal “doesn’t change the issues we are voting on,” like abortion, public expression of religion and same-sex marriage.

The church has been actively registering parishioners and reminding them to vote. “Every Sunday already,” Ms. Gimenez said.

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