Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Senate Stevens is a cooked goose

Today, the DOJ announced that a grand jury has indicted Senate Ted Stevens, the longest serving Republican in the Senate, on charges of lying about gifts and services he received from VECO Corporation in excess of $250,000.

Stevens was already facing an uphill battle as the popular Democratic Mayor of Anchorage, Mark Beigh, is running against him. He's also being challenged in the Republican primary.

In researching my next book, Losing: When Incumbencies Fail, lots of factors explain why incumbents fail to get re-elected: age, perceptions of incompetence, partisan tides, maverick behavior that undermines support within your party, first re-election test, and scandal. Scandal, however, particularly the kind that involves personal ethics and judgement, is generally the kiss of death for an incumbent. It is really, really hard to convince constituents to trust you when you are being charged with corruption and bribe-taking. And it is a very powerful narrative for a challenger to employ.

This spells serious problems for Republicans. Alaska is fairly safe Republican territory and a seat they need to retain in order to have any hope of stemming Democratic gains in the Senate this fall. The prospect of losing this seat is a bad omen for them indeed.

It also continues to tarnish the party's brand name. The last thing Republicans wanted was the Culture of Corruption argument to haunt them in a second election cycle. How can it not when the Dean of their party in the Senate can no longer serve as ranking member because of the Senate's rules preventing those under indictment from doing so?

If your a Democrat, you should be smiling with glee. If you're a Republican, things look pretty grim (a la 1974 grim).


Caitlin Worm said...

Have you seen the New York Times article talking about all the GOP Senate seats up for grabs? (This is one of them.) I can't find a link for you but it mentions something about the Republicans hoping to lose only four senate seats in November. Ouch.

David Parker said...

Yeah, that comment was made by the chair of the NRSC himself, Senator John Ensign.