Friday, April 21, 2006

Ralph Reed hits another iceberg

Now the Wall Street Journal notices that the SS Reed is taking on water:
Ralph Reed, White House confidant and an architect of the Religious Right movement, was favored to win the nomination in the Georgia lieutenant governor's race when the 2006 campaign season began.
But his work with Jack Abramoff, the former lobbyist who has admitted to trying to bribe lawmakers, is becoming a drag on Mr. Reed's first bid for public office.
Several surveys show Mr. Reed still holding a narrow lead, but with high unfavorable ratings and many voters undecided. While the Abramoff scandal has affected other campaigns, such as the re-election bid of Montana Republican Sen. Conrad Burns, the Georgia race appears the most competitive. So Mr. Reed's dilemma raises the question: Will Mr. Reed, a star of the national Republican Party, become the first campaign casualty of the Abramoff scandal when he squares off with state Sen. Casey Cagle in the July 18 primary?
In a word, yes. You can stick a fork in Reed -- he's done. If Cagle doesn't beat him in the GOP primary, Reed will lose in November -- and may take down Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue with him. Georgia Republicans are starting to realize that Reed is a sure loser, something that I've tried to point out for weeks. (See also here.)

If Jack Abramoff had been a lobbyist for defense contractors or Big Oil, no problem. But it was gambling, see? Christian conservatives in Georgia hate gambling, and those people were Reed's original base. So the thing that once made Reed such a formidable candidate in Georgia -- namely, his name-recognition with Christian conservatives -- has now come back to haunt him. Because those people now see Reed as a two-faced weasel.

Reed has tried to switch his campaign over to get support from the Chamber of Commerce crowd, but it doesn't matter how much money he gets from the country clubbers, he can't win the GOP primary without the evangelicals, and the evangelicals now despise Reed as a sort of political Elmer Gantry -- a fraud and a charlatan. The WSJ explains:
But other Republicans once close to Mr. Reed aren't satisfied with his explanation of his role in Mr. Abramoff's work. Maurice Atkinson, a Christian Coalition activist, quit the Reed campaign after the scandal became public and signed up with Mr. Cagle. "Nobody likes to be a hypocrite and nobody likes to follow a hypocrite," he says.

Erosion of support from religious activists could signal trouble for Mr. Reed as he heads into the primary's home stretch.
This Wall Street Journal piece might be the kiss of death for the Reed campaign. As I said of Reed weeks ago:
He's the political equivalent of a sucking chest wound, draining the life's blood of politics from the Georgia GOP. Every dime contributed to Reed's campaign is worse than wasted, because those donations allow Reed to keep embarrassing the Republican Party.

By cluing in the national big-money boys about Reed's irremediable political problem, the WSJ article will help staunch the bleeding. Reed's been able to out-raise Cagle only because of Georgia's law that prohibits members of the General Assembly from fund-raising while the legislature's in session. So Cagle's still playing catch-up, money-wise, but the party regulars know he's a winner:

A majority of elected officials in the Georgia Legislature and hundreds of county commissioners and sheriffs have endorsed Mr. Cagle. Here in Hamilton, state Rep. Vance Smith Jr., the governor's House floor leader, held a reception for him. "I don't know Ralph that well. I've met him," Mr. Smith says. "But Casey has been on the front lines."
Like I said: Mene, mene, tekel upharsin.

-- McCAIN

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