Is Time On Senator Craig's Side?

There's lots of speculation that Sen. Larry Craig will quit, maybe as soon as this weekend, over the firestorm created by his guilty plea for disorderly conduct after allegedly acting lewdly and "peeping" in a Minneapolis men's room known as a gay sex destination. Certainly the Republican leadership has sent the signal that it wouldn't cry if he bailed, as demonstrated when he was removed from key committees.

But now I hear that the leaders won't push Craig to bow out now and instead expect him to announce that he won't run for re-election in 2008.

"For somebody who's spent 27 years in Congress, you just can't flip a switch and say 'today I'm quitting,' " said a leadership official. "He won't be forced to leave," added the insider. What's more, he has been telling Senate GOP leaders that he was considering retiring at the end of his term even before the bathroom case.

The source explained how time is on Craig's side. First, he has gone on vacation; keeping the press at bay helps to quiet the story unless some other revelation is unearthed. Second, once the Senate returns to work next week, the attention will be on the pending Iraq "surge" report being delivered by Gen. David Petraeus and other political issues.

"The heat will be off him and on Iraq. There will be some reaction, but he could weather the story," said the leadership aide.

By Paul Bedard