Let me try to clear up some confusion. Earlier I did a post that said that Florida election law doesn't give the Republican party much of an
opportunity to save Rep. Mark Foley's (R-FL) seat. (Foley resigned today in the wake of revelations that he had sexually explicit IM chats with a congressional page.)
A number of readers have written to say that the law Paul Kiel refers to in this post
doesn't bear that out or that other sites say differently.
Let me explain.
Florida law says that the state GOP cannot remove Foley's name from the ballot. However, since he's dropped out of the race, they can designate a replacement. And any votes "Foley" gets will go to that GOP replacement.
The problem for the GOP is that Florida's 16th congressional district isn't that strong a GOP district. Foley won in 2004 with 68% of the vote. But President Bush pulled only 54%. That tells me it's a GOP district. But not by much. And there was already a serious Democratic challenger
in the race.
So here's how this plays out to me. No question, strong Republican partisans will vote for "Foley" because they know that vote goes to the candidate the local GOP has chosen to replace him. But outside of strong partisans, I really don't think a lot of voters are going to check off the box next to the candidate who's just resigned because he was exposed for having sex chats with underaged congressional pages. That just doesn't play to me.
And once the replacement gets picked, candidate X and the local Republican party can start putting up flyers that say "Vote for guy who had cybersex with a minor because the vote will really go to candidate X who would never do such a thing."
But that's just a hard message to get a lot of traction with. And if you figure that President Bush could still get 54% in that district, which doesn't seem likely, how many of the those 54% of Bush voters would you lose because they don't know that "Foley" really isn't Mark Foley, the disgraced congressman? I think more than four percentage points of them.
Given the Dems were already making a race of it, I think the Republicans' prospects for holding that seat are not good at all. Not a cakewalk. But I'd say this race now leans toward the Dems.
Others don't see it that way. But that's my read.Late Update
: A credible but unconfirmed tip has it that the Florida GOP is going to "sue to get the replacement's name on any ballots already not 'printed'". If successful, that could of course change the calculation. And remember of course that the Florida state judiciary is now well larded with Jeb Bush toadies. So don't count out the possibility.