Charlie Cook on the

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Charlie Cook on the Bug Man in Winter (thematically if not seasonally) …

On the political front, DeLay’s re-election situation is dicier than commonly thought.

Are DeLay’s ethical and legal problems much worse than they were on Election Day last November and are voters back home aware of it? Absolutely.

Is the political climate more difficult for DeLay now than back in November? Yes. From Social Security and gasoline prices to Iraq and the absence of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., as a whipping boy, things aren’t as good for Republicans today as they were six months ago.

Finally, does DeLay face more formidable opposition if he seeks re-election in 2006 than he did last year, when he beat neophyte Democrat Richard Morrison 55-41 percent, with a Libertarian candidate and an independent each garnering 2 percent? Yes.

Former Rep. Nick Lampson, who represented about 20 percent of this district before a DeLay-engineered redistricting, is the strong frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. Lampson might face Houston City Councilman Gordon Quan in a March primary.

Given the substantially greater adversity that DeLay faces today, it might be enough to cost him 5 to 9 percentage points and the seat.

While DeLay spent more than $2.7 million to get re-elected in 2004, not counting considerable outside resources that went into the effort, this time it would likely cost upwards of $5 million.

Keep in mind, the 22nd District is not DeLay’s old rock-ribbed Republican seat. DeLay was a team player in redistricting, and gave up heavily Republican areas, picking up Democratic territory, as a gesture to urge Republican members also to give up friendly territory.

In retrospect, he really could use that old turf. One Washington insider privately noted that it would be ironic if DeLay ended up being the first GOP casualty of his own redistricting plan.

Win or lose, this will be an ugly and costly re-election fight for DeLay — if he chooses to pursue it.

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