Dividing the 'Moral Vote' After New Scandals

The Congressional page scandal involving resigned Rep. Mark Foley has resonated with the public much more than recent corruption scandals, says NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr. As a result, Republicans are beginning to lose their advantage with voters concerned about moral values.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Lawyers for Congressman Mark Foley said today that he's being treated for alcoholism in Arizona. It was a scandal involving Foley and the ensuing investigation that became a late-breaking issue in this year's election.

The matter is now before the House Committee on Official Conduct, better known as the Ethics Committee, and that prompted these thoughts from news analyst Daniel Schorr.

DANIEL SCHORR: Speaker Dennis Hastert went yesterday where a speaker rarely goes, to testify before the House Ethics Committee. There have been more lobbying and corruption scandals in the House than at any time in a generation. Randy Duke Cunningham, Robert Ney, Tom DeLay, William Jefferson, etcetera.

But a so-called congressional page scandal, who failed to act before ABC broke the story, has gripped the American public in a way that money corruption has not. The scandal surrounding the disgraced Mark Foley and his suggestive e-mail communications with House pages hit Americans where it hurts - the vulnerability of teenaged boys to men of power who are predators. Republican leaders have been heading for the hills, there have been failures of memory and contradictions with the recollections of staff members.

We do not know what Speaker Hastert and Tom Reynolds, the chairman of the Republican House Campaign Committee, testified. The Ethics Committee is not known for speedy investigations, nor is it likely to have a report before the election 13 days from today. But the page scandal and the suspected cover up have already had their effects on the electorate.

In a Newsweek poll earlier this month, 27 percent of registered voters said the scandal and how the leadership handled it made them less likely to vote for a Republican Congressional candidate. A Time Magazine poll said that two thirds of those aware of the scandal believe that Republican leaders attempted a cover up.

This is the first time in recent years, says Newsweek, that more Americans trust the Democrats than Republicans on moral values. One can only speculate on how the election will be affected. How many disaffected Evangelicals will change their vote, how many will just stay home? But one way or another, the case of one errant congressman may have a profound impact on the voting pattern.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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