No, that’s not my headline. It’s the Nation’s. Yes, we have yet another Republican sex scandal. As if Senator Vitter’s six year old excapades weren’t bad enough, Sen. Larry Craig has piled on. While Craig’s activities on their own fall into the same category as Vitter’s, they are politically much more damaging for a number of reasons.
First, Sen. Craig is facing reelection next year. While Vitter will have three more years and a Presidential election to allow voters to forget his sins - Hell, Louisiana will probably have a few more sex scandals between now and November 2010 - Craig is up next November. Like it or not, this will be an issue.
Second, Craig’s scandal involves a man. There can be plenty of disagreement over whether that should matter, but the political reality is that it does. In states like Idaho, that makes it far more damaging. Would Idaho Republicans vote for a gay Senator? Some would, but would enough?
Third, Craig’s scandal happened this year. Vitter will be nine years removed from his sexual indiscrestions when he faces the voters. Craig, though, has just over a year to recover, and you can bet that the Democrats and the media will keep it alive for tht long.
Craig’s seat was safe but is safe no longer. It’s not time to his the panic button, but Democrats now have a chance to steal a seat that they could only have dreamed about last night. While I personally would rather see Craig remain in the Senate and continue using his vote to promote the conservative cause, doing so would mean giving the Democrats a clear shot at a wounded incumbent.
At ths point, Craig has three options. He can try to weather the storm and seek what will now be a difficult reelection bid. He would probably win by the skin of his teeth while damaging Republicans nationally. He can announce that he will not seek reelection, which he could have done yesterday without any fanfare. That would look bad, but his name wouldn’t be on the ballot. Effectively that would be admitting wrongdoing and burdening the Republican candidate by keeping himself around as an issue. Or he can resign now. That would allow Gov. Butch Davis to name a replacement, likely Lt. Gov. Jim Risch. That is the only way that Craig would not be an issue next year.
I want to have people who share conservative values in office, even if they fall short of living by those values. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always live up to my own standards, but that shouldn’t mean that I get rid of them. There are many who do say that, and those are the people who must be defeated. Having said that, Craig is not doing himself any favors by trying to explain that his actions were misunderstood or that he thought he could bury the issue by not hiring a lawyer. Frankly, I’m insulted that he thinks anyone would believe either of those comments.
Regardless of what Craig and the Party decided to do, those deciding to run for office as Republicans need to decide to behave themselves, at least during their time in office. If any of you are thinking of running, please don’t if you don’t think you can restrain yourself for the duration of your term.