Video: Will Foley depress conservative turnout?

By David Gregory Chief White House correspondent
NBC News
updated 10/4/2006 7:33:04 PM ET 2006-10-04T23:33:04

In Kirkwood, Mo., a Republican stronghold in a state with a close senate race, some of the party faithful like Pat Haley are fed up with GOP leaders. Mark Foley, he says, was the last straw.

"I mean there's too many things that have happened one after another in the last month and who wants to listen to the news at night?" Haley says.

Republicans now fear that frustration may keep social conservatives, so-called values voters, home on Election Day.

"This is one of those issues that breaks trust, dampens enthusiasm and no question is going to have an impact on the fall's election," says leading conservative activist Tony Perkins.

Values voters have made their mark before.

Advisers to President Bush have said they think millions of evangelicals didn't vote back in 2000 when Bush admitted to a drunk driving arrest in his past.

The Foley scandal comes when voters are already in a sour mood. There is disapproval of the war in Iraq and dissatisfaction with Congress — just 20 percent approval for the Republican-led Congress, according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Democrats, on the attack over the war, are eager to add the Foley scandal to the campaign.

Patty Wetterling, a Democrat running for an open House seat in Minnesota, targets Republican leaders in a new television ad.

"For a over a year they knowingly ignored the welfare of children to protect their own power," the ad says.

Some Republicans argue, however, that Democrats will pay a price for overplaying this sex scandal.

"The argument would be that the Democrats are hypocritical in politicizing this issue because they have had a more, a worse track record of dealing with things like this than the Republicans," says Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman from Minnesota.

The reality for Republicans is that the Foley story is a momentum changer, leaving the party to anxiously wonder how long it lasts.

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