Scandals, war shadow GOP governors
By Michael Finnegan, Los Angeles Times December 2, 2005
LOS ANGELES -- Political fallout from corruption scandals and the Iraq war cast a pall over a gathering of Republican governors in Carlsbad, Calif., yesterday as GOP strategists and leaders acknowledged the party faces a tough climate for its 2006 campaigns
''You'd have to be really disconnected from reality to not see and admit that Republicans nationally have gone through a tough patch here the last six or eight months," Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty said. ''We should just acknowledge that."
Still, Pawlenty and other governors stressed that voters ultimately would judge candidates as individuals and disregard broader concerns about how Republicans have run the White House and Congress. They also expressed hope that Republicans' worst misfortunes are behind them.
''What the political landscape looks to be right now will probably be very, very different a year from now," Colorado Governor Bill Owens said.
In a fluke, however, the setting of the annual GOP governors' conference symbolized the party's woes: a golf resort in the congressional district of Randy ''Duke" Cunningham, the Republican who resigned last week after pleading guilty to taking $2.4 million in bribes. Cunningham's admission added to troubles that Republicans already faced from the indictments of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay; I. Lewis ''Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff; and Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
The Republican governors also heard blunt talk from strategists on the difficulties they face next year, when voters will choose 36 governors at the same time as the mid-term congressional elections. GOP strategist Mike Murphy said voters might try to punish the unpopular president by voting against his Republican allies.
''You've got to have your own identity, and be really good, and really loud, or you could be a part of that," Murphy told the governors, adding: ''Federally, it could be really bad."
Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman played down the impact of the current scandals -- and related investigations that could produce more indictments -- on the 2006 elections.
''What the American people care about is what their individual member of Congress, their senator, their governor did," and whether each has worked to improve the lives of Americans, Mehlman told reporters at the conference