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FOX News reports that Hastert's refusal to step down could cost GOP dozens of seats in the House this November:

House Republican candidates will suffer massive losses if House Speaker Dennis Hastert remains speaker until Election Day, according to internal polling data from a prominent GOP pollster, FOX News has learned.

"The data suggests Americans have bailed on the speaker," a Republican source briefed on the polling data told FOX News. "And the difference could be between a 20-seat loss and 50-seat loss."

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) made no mention of tapping former FBI director Louis Freeh to lead an investigation into misconduct with House pages in a press conference moments ago, saying instead that he'd reached out to Pelosi to "share some ideas."

The move had been reported earlier by Roll Call. Shortly before Hastert's press conference, MSNBC reported that when the Speaker told the idea to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), "Pelosi said that's not good enough. We don't want an overhaul of the page program; we need a more thorough investigation."

In his statement, Hastert said he was "looking for a person of high caliber" to lead a probe into the matter. "I have reached out to the Democratic Leader," Hastert said, "and we hope to resolve this soon."

"I'm deeply sorry this has happened," Hastert told reporters assembled outside his Illinois district office, apparently referring to the Foley scandal. "Our system obviously isn't designed for this electronic age of instant messages."

He insisted he and other GOP leaders "dealt with it immediately." He reiterated his claim that he first learned of the matter last Friday.

Still, he admitted, there was room for improvement. "Could we have handled it better? Could the page board have handled it better? In retrospect probably, yes."

In response to a reporter's query, Hastert said he wasn't stepping down. "I'm going to run and presumably win in this election, and when I do, I expect to run" for the House Speaker's seat.

The House Speaker used his responses to reporters' questions to reiterate GOP successes at the end of this congressional session; take a shot at former GOP aide Kirk Fordham, who says he told Hastert's staff in 2003 about Foley's problems; and insinuate that the Democrats had created the scandal because they didn't have a message to win the elections.

We'll be posting video of the news conference soon.

Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) and Howard Berman (D-CA) will head up a special subcommittee to investigate the Foley scandal, the House ethics committee announced, and dodged questions about appointing a special counsel to handle the probe.

The panel "will go wherever the evidence reaches," Hastings said at a press conference moments ago. The group met for the first time this morning, Hastings said, and sent out nearly 50 subpoenas. Hastings and Berman declined to name the subpoenas' recipients.

The subject of the panel's investigation was not clear. Hastings admitted that Foley is no longer under their jurisdiction, having resigned his seat, although he said Foley's past behavior as "of interest." The panel would investigate the page program in a broader context, he said.

The panel will wrap up its work in a matter of "weeks, not months," according to Berman. The two men are chair and ranking member of the House ethics committee.

While the lawmakers comprising the subcommittee have "partisan feelings," Berman said, "we are going to put those partisan considerations totally aside, as I have seen witnessed from the chairman during the past five and a half months."

Hastings dodged questions about the Roll Call report that ex-FBI director Louis Freeh would be appointed a special counsel to investigate the scandal.

We're still waiting for the official announcements, but it sounds like we already know what we're going to hear: Hastert isn't leaving, and he's adopting a "buck stops here" stance; the House ethics committee is going to appoint a special counsel to conduct a broad investigation, led by former FBI head Louis Freeh.

[Update: the committee has since announced it will investigate the program itself. Freeh will lead a separate probe, at Hastert's request. Late Update: Ha. Pelosi nixed Freeh. I'm sending my crystal ball in for repair.]

That means that Hastert and the House GOP will have taken their best shot at leading the next news cycle. They're taking charge (finally), starting a probe, and accepting a little responsibility -- at least rhetorically.

Here's the thing: Hastert and the GOP need to lead at least an entire news cycle to shift the momentum of the story. They're already walking wounded; as just one example, MSNBC is reporting Hastert has canceled all of his fundraising appearances for the next two weeks. They need a solid day of good press. I don't know if they'll get it; but this is basically their one chance.

The press is already acting a little wary. But to make things worse, we understand that there are other revelations about lawmakers' misbehavior with pages waiting to erupt. Other members, other pages, other scenarios that haven't become public. If any of that dirt breaks in the next 24 hours -- well, it would most likely blow a hole through the GOP message that they've got the situation under control, and start a whole new wave of what-did-they-know, when-did-they-know-it. And it will be even less enjoyable than the first round.

On the flip side, if Hastert and the GOP controls the cycle through tomorrow and into the weekend, they might hang on. I don't know if they could undo the damage of the last week, but it might not be the catastrophe some have predicted.

A roundup of the best Foley posts from around the blogosphere:

Boehner, Hastert blame Foley victims (AmericaBlog). . . "Gay conspiracy" meme starting up to defend GOP leaders' inaction (TPM). . . Rep. Shimkus: "What do you want me to do? Take off my shirt and give myself 40 lashes?" (Think Progress). . . Cheney: It "makes no sense" for Hastert to resign (Think Progress). . . One Foley teen may have been 18 at the time of nasty IMs(Wonkette, Instapundit). . . Righty Blogs "Out" Foley Victim (Think Progress). . . Righty blog outing of Foley victim was wrong (Michelle Malkin). . .Some back story and supposition on Kirk Fordham (TPM). . . An array of Foley pics (Wonkette). . . Foley emails were classic examples of predatory behavior (Think Progress)

Roll Call is reporting:

Sources said Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) will announce today that former FBI Director Louis Freeh will oversee an investigation of the House page program, which has been rocked in recent days by the scandal surrounding resigned Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.). Hastert is expected to hold a news conference in Illinois this afternoon.

Here's the list of publications and public figures who have called for Hastert to resign his leadership position over his handling of the Foley scandal. Hastert's speaking momentarily, we understand, although it sounds unlikely he will forfeit his gavel.

We aren't including those, like conservative leader Paul Weyrich, who have called for his resignation but later switched their position. No flip-floppers allowed.

If you know of others we've left off, let us know. The list so far, after the jump.

Read More →

MSNBC is reporting that Speaker Hastert will speak outside his home, and that the press conference "could come as soon as half an hour from now -- sometime in the 1 o'clock eastern hour."

The Hotline on Call blog has more:

In a press conference scheduled for noon CT in Illinois, House Speaker Dennis Hastert plans to accept some measure of responsibility for failing to discover Rep. Mark Foley's misconduct with pages, a House official said this morning. "He is taking responsibility because the buck stops with him," the official said.

Hastert won't resign "because that would be giving into the Democrat party’s best wish," the official said.

He is expected to make several announcements, including one about revisions to the page program.

Various reports imply that the FBI probe in the Mark Foley scandal is getting rolling. Two central figures in the scandal have confirmed the bureau will be interviewing them.

Rep. Mark Shimkus (R-IL), head of the House Page Board, and Kirk Fordham, the recently-departed senior aide to Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY) have both confirmed they will be talking with the FBI about the page scandal.

Both men also say they've lawyered up. Who else has the FBI called?