Twelve years ago, during George W. Bush’s presidency, Republican scandals turned a bad mid-term election into a terrible one. Unexpectedly, Democrats recaptured House and Senate majorities.
This year, under President Trump, Republicans suffer from more and deeper scandals. Could Democrats exploit them for the same November effect?
This week’s arrest of GOP Rep. Chris Collins, charged with conducting insider trading while attending a White House picnic, amplified a question looming over election season. But scandal represents an uncertain tool for political campaigns – which sometimes can even backfire.
In 2006, allegations of financial misbehavior rocked a series of GOP members. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay quit under a cloud; two colleagues, Duke Cunningham and Bob Ney, eventually went to jail.
More salacious: reports surfaced that Rep. Mark Foley had sent sexually-suggestive messages to male teenaged pages in the Capitol. The Foley news hit in September at an especially vulnerable moment for Republicans.
But their greatest vulnerabilities then stemmed from the foundering Iraq War and the Bush administration’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina. GOP scandals gave Democrats a boost that was “meaningful,” pollster Mark Mellman says, “but not decisive.”
Today, the scandal trail begins at the White House. Trump faces a lawsuit accusing him of profiting illegally from his office, allegations of sexual misconduct and hush money, and the Russia investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Trump’s campaign chair is standing trial on bank and tax fraud charges. His former National Security Adviser and deputy campaign chief have plead guilty to felonies.