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Republican Party Reeling from DeLay Indictment, Other Troubles


One of the most powerful politicians in Washington is under fire. Texas Congressman Tom Delay has been indicted for the second time in a week and forced to step down as the House Majority Leader. VOA's Jim Bertel reports this adds to a growing list of political woes for the Republican Party, a situation Democrats faced a decade ago.

Congressman Tom Delay is one of the most powerful leaders the House of Representatives has seen in decades. But with his indictment by a Texas Grand Jury for alleged money laundering and violating state campaign laws, some are saying the Tom Delay era is over.

"All of this publicity has become a problem for the Republicans and they don't see any advantage in remaining loyal to him," says Thomas Mann, a Congressional Scholar at The Brookings Institution in Washington. He says the political machine Congressman Delay built to help push through the Republican agenda has been weakened by the adverse publicity.

For his part, Mr. Delay says he is the victim of a political vendetta by Texas Prosecutor Ronnie Earle, a Democrat.

"This is one of the weakest, most baseless indictments in American history," responded Mr. Delay.

Mr. Earle says he has prosecuted Democrats as well as Republicans over the years and is merely trying to enforce Texas law.

The Delay indictment is the latest in a series of setbacks for Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist faces a federal probe over a stock deal in which he says he did nothing wrong. A federal grand jury is investigating to see if anyone in the White House broke the law in revealing the identity of a C.I.A. agent. And the public approval ratings for Republican President George W. Bush and the Republican-led Congress are near their lowest levels.

Given the Republican Party's troubles, Thomas Mann believes the Party's candidates could face a backlash from voters next year when the entire House of Representatives and a third of the Senate are up for reelection.

"So you have the possibility of forces building that would punish the party in power and right now that's the Republican Party. A decade or more ago it was the Democratic Party."

In many ways, today's problems echo some of the scandals the Democrats were facing in 1994 when the Republican Party took control of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

Dennis Johnson is Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University. He told us the implications of 1994. "And you had this massive number of Democrats who lost their seats in the House and Senate."

In 2006, Democratic Party leaders are hoping to duplicate the Republican's success a decade ago. But Dennis Johnson says the Republicans have a couple of things in their favor: a robust economy and no strong Democratic leader to counter the President.

"So you basically have a leaderless party and just individuals coming forward,” said Mr. Johnson. “But right now, the Democrats are still not there as a major force to counter the problems the Republicans have."

He adds that a year is a very long time in politics, and with the Republicans controlling Congress and the White House, it is much too early to make any accurate predictions.