Yesterday, I said that I didn’t think Dennis Hastert’s leadership position was in any immediate jeopardy until prominent congressional Republicans began calling for him to go, particularly 2008 hopefuls.
I am now reassessing that comment, following a report by Fox News today on an internal GOP poll which does not bode well for them.
WASHINGTON — House Republican candidates will suffer massive losses if House Speaker Dennis Hastert remains speaker until Election Day, according to internal polling data from a prominent GOP pollster, FOX News has learned.
“The data suggests Americans have bailed on the speaker,” a Republican source briefed on the polling data told FOX News. “And the difference could be between a 20-seat loss and 50-seat loss.”
My guess for Fox’s source is a member of Congress or an associate who has been critical of the leadership and wants to clean house before a tough election (i.e. Chris Shays) or someone with possible leadership ambitions who sees an opening. Either way, both of them would have the means and the motive to subtly nudge Hastert out the door by leaking word about this poll in hopes he gets the hint and doesn’t take the rest of the party down with him.
ABC News continues to own the story. Two days ago they revealed this shocker:
Former Congressman Mark Foley (R-FL) interrupted a vote on the floor of the House in 2003 to engage in Internet sex with a high school student who had served as a congressional page, according to new Internet instant messages provided to ABC News by former pages.
Today, they found more skeletons in Foley’s closet:
Three more former congressional pages have come forward to reveal what they call “sexual approaches” over the Internet from former Congressman Mark Foley.
The pages served in the classes of 1998, 2000 and 2002. They independently approached ABC News after the Foley resignation through the Brian Ross & the Investigative Team’s tip line on ABCNews.com. None wanted their names used because of the sensitive nature of the communications.
It all goes downhill from there – more raunchy comments and e-mails from Foley.
The House Ethics Committee voted unanimously to open an investigation into how lawmakers and congressional staffers handled the Foley allegations, creating a new subcommittee and issuing over four dozen subpoenas for testimony and documents. Committee chairman Doc Hastings declined to name names but I think it would be fair to assume that Dennis Hastert is one of them.
Separately, former Foley/Reynolds aide Kirk Fordham was interviewed today by the FBI as part of its investigation.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi deep-sixed a proposal by Hastert to have ex-FBI director Louis Freeh look into the page program:
Hastert had hoped to announce the bipartisan appointment of former FBI director Louis J. Freeh to look into ways to improve the page program, in which teenagers live in a Capitol Hill dorm and attend a special school. But when he called Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) early in the afternoon, she declined to go along with the plan.
Pelosi saw the Freeh proposal as a ploy to burnish the GOP’s image, aides said. She told the speaker that investigators should examine whether existing rules and procedures were followed before the House considers new rules, the aides said.
Finally, an interesting note: ABC News broke the first story about the Foley e-mail one week ago today. Who would have guessed what a firestorm that story would unleash within a week? This story has become Watergate in a microwave.