In the wake of the Mark Foley sex scandal, Republicans are doing their best to hold the party together in the face of the upcoming election in which Democrats are making serious threats to retake control of Congress.
According to a Newsweek poll, more than half those questioned said they believe the Republican speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, was aware of Foley's inappropriate email and instant messenger conversation with underage pages and tried to cover it up. Nearly 30 percent of Republicans felt that way. The poll also says that 80 percent of Americans are aware of the Foley scandal. What's worse for Republicans, is that more Americans favor Democrats over Republicans.
Appearing on CBS News' Face the Nation Rep. Ray LaHood R-Ill. said that the page program should be suspended and gave Speaker Hastert "high marks" for his "strong leadership."
"He took care of Tom DeLay, his best friend. When Tom was having ethical problems, the speaker went to him and asked him to leave. When he appointed Duke Cunningham to the Intelligence Committee, he went to Duke and made sure he wasn't on the Intelligence Committee after it was disclosed he took $2.3 million. And when Bob Ney was appointed chairman of the House Administration Committee, he was appointed by Speaker Hastert. Speaker Hastert went to him and told him to step down from that committee after the Abramoff disclosures," he told Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer.
Hastert, LaHood said, still has the credibility to lead on ethical challenges the Republicans face.
Rep. Tom Davis R-Va., the chief fund-raiser for House Republicans, said that Hastert was slow to react to the Foley problem and that an investigation will uncover more about what happened. Meanwhile, the stock market is at an all-time high and oil prices are down by 25 percent – things the Republicans should be capitalizing on.
"We're going to have an investigative report very soon," Davis said. "I think this: I think anybody that hindered this in any kind of way, that tried to step in the way of hiding this or covering it up is going to have to step down, whoever that is, and let's wait for the report."
Davis said the scandal has given the Democrats fodder against the Republicans, who will try to perpetuate the media frenzy.
"I think we just need to go regular order, get this investigation over," he said. "Let the chips fall where they may, and get out in the next 30 days and talk about the other issues that are important to the American people. And right now, there's no oxygen for those issues, and that's hurting Republicans."
Although Davis said the next 30 days is an "eternity in politics," he said that the scandal could cost his party the House. If elections were held today, he said Republicans would lose.
"There are so many races in the margins. Until someone's over 50 percent in polling and you can't cross it. So it's a tough lift under the atmospherics today. But you don't time elections for today. You time it for 30 days from now. I think Republicans have good get-out-the-vote strategies," he said.
LaHood said there are three competitive races in his state, Illinois and that there are many conditions that favor Republicans.
"People are feeling pretty good about the economy in our area," he said. "I think our people need to talk about these issues and really persuade the voters."