For years Republicans have loved to beat up on the Democrats in "disarray" and point to the amazing party unity the GOP enjoys. They may call it Big Tent party, but everyone in that tent marches to the same orders. How then to explain the recent fracturing and outright mutiny from the ranks all the way up to Congress?
Despite a decades-long advantage on the organizing front, Republicans seem to be falling apart in some of their more traditional strongholds and are floundering when it comes to finding decent candidates to run on their ticket:
The Girl Least Likely To...
Katherine Harris is my favorite example. The Girl Least Likely To...(here, here, here, and here) seems all but certain to clinch the Republican primary in Florida. Bucking the party who begged her to abandon her ill-fated campaign months ago, Harris instead vowed to dump $10 million of her own money into the run and then proceeded to scare off THREE rounds of staff. Not content with that, she then declared the "theory" of church and state separation (as dictated in the US Constitution) to be a lie and that voting for non-Christians was akin to "legislating sin." It was a clumsy attempt to court Florida's evangelicals and instead sounded like an official launch of the New Crusades. Harris now trails incumbent Democratic Senator Bill Nelson by at least 30 points.
GOP attempts to attract better candidates fell flat with everyone from Florida House Speaker Allan Bense to former congressman and political talk show host Joe Scarborough taking a pass on the role. That left Harris as the only candidate with name recognition and the thinnest veneer of support. A recent Harris rally resulted in NONE of the nine declared supporters showing up and a dismal public showing. Harris tried to blame the no-shows on a tree falling on the original location that forced the campaign to move and people were confused, none of which turned out to be true.
What's in a Name?
Speaking of name recognition, Republicans have had a hell of a time replacing scandal plagued candidates with anyone—anyone at all.
Most notable is former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. DeLay has been implicated in the Abramoff scandal, among several other unseemly doings, and recently resigned from the House. An attempt to remove his name form the ballot lost in the courts but now might get a reprieve of sorts from Texas Governor (and Republican) Rick Perry who has announced a special election to fill the remainder of DeLay's term. Why is this important? Because the local party, in their infinite wisdom, decided on a write-in candidate who sports a name that doesn't so much roll off the tongue as it does stumble and get lost: Houston city councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs. This move allows her name to actually appear elsewhere on the ballot, making it easier for people to remember and then write in. It's a clever move but one that comes as a last-ditch effort to save a seat that even a year ago was considered untouchable by Democrats.
Similarily, Ohio scammer, Bob Ney finally caved and decided to step down from his seat as well. Ney's misdeeds (as yet un-tried, but looking increasingly bad) are so wide and deep, it would take all day to document them. Suffice it to say he's been linked to fraud, bribery, abuse of public office, and even (indirectly) a murder! Ney used his position to insert language into the Congressional record that aided clients of Abramoff, but not for free of course. Ney's involvement is similar in the Sun Cruz Casinos case in which former owner Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis was murdered. Nobody is claiming Ney had any part in that crime, but his entanglement sunk his political career and left his seat vulnerable.
The rush to replace Ney in November has led to nasty political infighting with James Brodbelt Harris of Muskingum County calling on Ohio Sen. Joy Padgett of Coshocton to explain the circumstances under which she filed for personal bankruptcy this year, after supposedly defaulting on a federal Small Business Administration loan in 2005. And these are the REPUBLICANS.
Ride, Captain, Ride!
In among all this static is the growing sound of Republicans running away from the leader of their party, President George W. Bush. You'll be hard pressed to find any photos of GOP candidates with the President even though he's still a solid local fundraiser. With the Iraq war weighing heavily on voters and the Administration's lame attempt to bolster support bordering on lunacy, GOP candidates can't get further enough from the shadow. Throw in bad economic news for everyone but the uppermost of the upper classes and continued failures in domestic policy, including Homeland Security, and you have the makings of a tidal wave of change this Fall. The ruling party has the most to lose and Republicans hold both houses of congress.
When George W. Bush is your captain, the last thing you want to hear is the strains of Gordon Lightfoot's "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" but it's looking more and more like the gales of November will indeed come early. Watch for more Republicans to flee like rats from a sinking ship.