- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The resignation Tuesday of an Indiana Republican congressman for infidelity and the accusation that the front-running Democrat for Connecticut’s Senate seat lied about his military service tainted both political parties yesterday — adding to mounting shenanigans that have yet to give either side an edge.

Unlike the string of GOP scandals that helped Democrats regain control of Congress in the 2006 midterms, the recent pingpong nature of questionable behavior on both sides of the aisle has limited the ability of either side to use the “culture of corruption” mantra as a national rallying cry.

While Democrats deal with the ethical fallout from the questionable appointment of Illinois Sen. Roland Burris to President Obama’s old Senate seat and the resignation earlier this year of New York Rep. Eric Massa on colorful sexual-harassment charges, Republicans have had their own problems, including an extramarital affair scandal involving Sen. John Ensign of Nevada.

On Tuesday, Indiana Rep. Mark Souder, an eight-term Republican who promoted abstinence education, abruptly resigned his seat and abandoned his re-election bid after revelations about an extramarital affair with a female staffer. And Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s front-runner status in the state’s Democratic Senate primary was rocked by accusations he misrepresented his military career.

“Who the heck knows” who will benefit, said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “People don’t seem to care anymore.”

The episodes highlight how unexpected events can upset projections as both parties prepare for the November midterm elections, though political analysts suggest the Democrats, with sizable majorities in both the House and Senate, may suffer more from voter anti-incumbent, anti-Washington sentiment.

Based on the revelations, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report on Tuesday shifted the Connecticut Senate race from a likely Democratic win to a “tossup.”

Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor with the Cook Political Report, said Mr. Blumenthal’s plight has opened the door to Republican front-runner Linda McMahon in a Democratic-leaning state.

“This hits Blumenthal hard because he is generally viewed as the strongest candidate Democrats have,” she said.

Mr. Blumenthal on Tuesday apologized for how he has characterized his military service after a New York Times story detailed how he made it appear he had served overseas in Vietnam.

“I have misspoken about my service,” he said at a press conference inside a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in West Hartford, Conn. “I regret that and I take full responsibility. … But I have served in the United States Marine Corps and am proud of it.”

Mr. Blumenthal, 64, said his remarks were “unintentional” and occurred only a few times over the course of a hundred events. He has stated as recently as two months ago that he served in the Marine reserves, not overseas.

Ironically, Mr. Blumenthal is seeking the seat being vacated by Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, who didn’t seek re-election after his cozy relationship with the banking industry sent his poll numbers plummeting in the state.

The campaign of Mrs. McMahon — a former World Wrestling Entertainment executive — reportedly took credit for helping break the story on Mr. Blumenthal, in part by supplying a 2008 video in which Mr. Blumenthal, the state’s attorney general for the past 20 years, said explicitly that he had served in Vietnam.

However, Republican candidate and former Rep. Rob Simmons, a Vietnam veteran, could benefit the most in the race.

Republicans need to win 10 seats to retake control of the Senate, a number most analysts consider a long shot, but analysts say the party has a growing shot at the approximately 40 seats they need to reclaim control of the House.

Mr. Sabato and other political analysts think Democrats may not be able to exploit the new scandal in Indiana because Mr. Souder’s district is solidly Republican.

“Republicans will easily hold that seat,” he said.

Mr. Souder, an evangelical Christian who has championed family values and traditional marriage, apologized for his actions but did nothing illegal and would have been cleared in a House ethics investigation.

“It is with great regret I announce that I am resigning from the U.S. House of Representatives as well as resigning as the Republican nominee for Congress in this fall’s election,” a tearful Mr. Souder, 59, said during a five-minute speech from his office in Fort Wayne.

Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels said he was surprised and disappointed by Mr. Souder’s announcement.

One possible Republican replacement for the district is state Sen. Marlin Stutzman of Howe, who finished second to former Sen. Dan Coats in this month’s GOP Senate primary.

This story is based in part on wire service reports.



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