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Foley Fallout Reflected In Polls

More than half of Americans don't believe the House GOP leadership in the Mark Foley online message scandal and an upstate N.Y. congressman, once engaged in a tight race for re-election, is now faced with a double-digit deficit, according to two new polls released Saturday.

Fifty-two percent of those surveyed in a Newsweek poll say they believe House Speaker Dennis Hastert was aware of the former Florida Rep. Foley's inappropriate messages to teenage House pages and tried to cover them up. Hastert has said he was not aware of Foley's inappropriate conduct until the story broke publicly late last month.

Also, 42 percent say they trust Democrats to do a better job of handling moral values, while 36 percent say they trust Republicans more.

The Newsweek survey says 53 percent of Americans want the Democrats to win control of Congress next month, including ten percent of Republicans. That compares to just 35 percent who want the GOP to retain power.

Meanwhile, Rep. Thomas Reynolds, R-N.Y., is trailing behind his Democratic opponent after being connected to the scandal involving Foley.

The poll, performed by Zogby International for The Buffalo News, showed businessman Jack Davis leading Reynolds 48 percent to 33 percent.

The poll, which surveyed 402 likely voters in the 26th Congressional District on Wednesday and Thursday, found 325 respondents were following the Foley story and 57 percent disapproved of how Reynolds was handling the situation. Only 25 percent approved.

Democrats have been trying to capitalize on the negative momentum of Republicans. On Saturday, Democrat Patty Wetterling, a candidate for an open House seat in Minnesota, continued the attack.

The Democrats could take the House, the Senate or both. In the House it would take a gain of 15 of the 435 seats being elected, and a gain of six of the 33 Senate seats at stake would swing control of that chamber to the Democrats.

Reynolds said fellow Congressman Rodney Alexander told him last spring about "overly friendly" e-mails from Foley to a teenage former Congressional page. Though Reynolds said he didn't see the e-mails, he then alerted his boss, House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

Foley resigned Sept. 29 as it was revealed he had sent sexually explicit instant messages to other former pages.

Only 2 percent of those surveyed in last week's poll said they view Reynolds more favorably since news of the scandal broke, while 50 percent said they think less favorably of him.

Those whose opinions remain unchanged stand at 47 percent. The poll had a margin for error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

In a new ad campaign defending himself, Reynolds said referring to Foley, "Nobody's angrier and more disappointed that I didn't catch his lies."

The television commercial appeared Friday on stations in Buffalo and Rochester. "I trusted that others had investigated. Looking back, more should have been done, and for that, I am sorry," Reynolds said.

Reynolds, head of the House Republican election effort, has come under attack from Democrats who say he did too little to protect a page from Foley.

In an editorial board meeting Friday with The Buffalo News, Reynolds said he could not remember several details about his involvement, including exactly when he learned of Foley's e-mails to teenage congressional pages or when he told House Speaker Dennis Hastert about them.

However, Reynolds said Sept. 30 that he had told Hastert months ago about concerns he had about Foley's messages.

"In relation to what everyone knew when he found out in the spring, (Reynolds) took the appropriate action for what he knew at the time," Reynolds spokesman L.D. Platt said. "But knowing what he does now, he clearly feels there is a little bit of 'parent guilt."'

Reynolds already was in a tough re-election race against businessman Jack Davis, his rival from 2004.

Reynolds aides said his campaign will spend about $200,000 on the new commercial.

"I never saw a single e-mail," Reynolds says in the ad. "Not one."

Reynolds said his position in the House leadership has not been compromised.

He also told the newspaper editorial board his former chief of staff, Kirk Fordham, never discussed with him any concerns about Foley, even though Fordham previously worked for Foley for a decade. Fordham resigned this past week.

Fordham said in an Associated Press interview that he warned Hastert's aides more than three years ago that Foley's behavior toward pages was troublesome. That was long before GOP leaders acknowledged learning of the problem.

Fordham's claim drew a swift, unequivocal denial from Hastert's chief of staff. "What Kirk Fordham said did not happen," Scott Palmer said through a spokesman.