by Jonathan Singer, Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 02:31:32 PM EST
I've written a bit in recent days about the scandal surrounding the politically-motivated purge of United States Attorneys because in many ways this story crystalizes a number of the central attacks on the Bush White House, the Republican Party and modern conservatism: That they all care more about political power than good policy, that they advocate for the use of governmental power to forward their radical agenda, that they have little respect for the rule of law, and that they are just plain corrupt.
But beyond the wider picture of how this might affect the public's already poor perceptions of the Republican Party -- the recent New York Times/CBS News poll finds that just 34 percent of Americans view the GOP favorably, lower than the party's image has been in the poll since its attept to impeach and remove President Clinton in 1998 -- this story could be bad news for Republicans on a tactical level, too. As I noted yesterday, tough campaigns for and possible losses by the two Congressional Republicans seemingly most caught up in the scandal -- Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson, both of New Mexico -- would make it significantly more difficult for Republicans to reclaim control over either or both chambers of Congress next fall. I have already written about and advocated on behalf of a course of action to force Sen. Domenici into retirement, which I seriously hope is undertaken. And now, it appears as though the sharks are circling in New Mexico's first congressional district, which Wilson represents. First, Michael Gisick writing for the Albuquerque Tribune:
"If I was Heather Wilson, I'd be thinking about taking a long trip to Baghdad, where the conditions are a little more subdued," said former Gov. Dave Cargo.
Cargo, a Republican, was only half-joking.
Claims that Wilson and Domenici pressured Iglesias to bring indictments in a politically charged corruption investigation of local Democrats ahead of last year's election - when Wilson was locked in a battle for her political life - are "terribly serious," Cargo said.
"This has the potential to really cripple the (state) Republican Party," he said. "And the way Heather and Pete are handling it, by essentially taking the Fifth (Amendment), isn't helping them."
Joe Monahan has more on the implications for Wilson over at his must-read New Mexico Politics blog:
With Wilson already pinned down by the Iraq war and her close re-election, state Dems were renewing their interest in finding an '08 challenger. The names of ABQ state Rep. Al Park and ABQ state Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino made the rounds. And that will probably be just for starters, if Washington Democrats have their knives properly sharpened.
I admittedly know nothing about the state legislators mentioned by Monahan as having interest in challenging Wilson, but it's a good sign that folks are already lining up to run against her. Wilson should have and probably would have lost her reelection bid in this Democratic-leaning district last year had it not been for a disastrous debate flub by her Democratic challenger, state Attorney General Patricia Madrid.
Even notwithstanding this prosecutor purge story, Wilson would have likely faced an at least credible challenge from the Democrats in 2008. But with this scandal taking root and potentially expanding as Congress follows through on its subpoenas of this week by hearing the testimony of New Mexico's ousted U.S. attorney, David Iglesias, on Tuesday, it may be that New Mexico Democrats aren't going to need to redraw the states congressional districts to further weaken Wilson -- that she may have sealed her fate through her allegedly improper and unethical actions last fall.