updated 10/12/2006 11:09:46 AM ET 2006-10-12T15:09:46

House Republicans are scaling back television advertising reserved for four Democratic-held seats in Ohio, South Carolina and West Virginia, officials said Wednesday, fresh evidence of the party's struggles as it tries to retain its majority.

  1. Other political news of note
    1. Animated Boehner: 'There's nothing complex about the Keystone Pipeline!'

      House Speaker John Boehner became animated Tuesday over the proposed Keystone Pipeline, castigating the Obama administration for not having approved the project yet.

    2. Budget deficits shrinking but set to grow after 2015
    3. Senate readies another volley on unemployment aid
    4. Obama faces Syria standstill
    5. Fluke files to run in California

At the same time, GOP strategists signaled they intend to spend nearly $1 million in an attempt to hold the seat recently vacated by Rep. Mark Foley. The Florida Republican quit Congress last month after being confronted with sexually explicit computer messages he sent to teenage male pages.

Democrats, who must gain 15 seats to win House control, said the moves were evidence that time was running out on the GOP majority. "The fact is, defending a failed economy for the middle class and the disaster in Iraq was always going to be too expensive a proposition for Republicans," said Bill Burton, a Democratic spokesman.

Carl Forti, a spokesman for House Republicans, countered, "We'll find out who's winning on election day." 2006 key races

Democratic plans
Democrats, too, were rearranging their plans as the campaign headed into its final stages.

While some of their changes reflected confidence, that did not appear to be the case in Arizona, where the party has pared back plans to advertise against Republican Rep. J.D. Hayworth.

The maneuvering unfolded as Republicans struggled to regain their balance after more than a week of Foley-related controversy and persistent questions about when GOP congressional leaders learned of the issue and how quickly they acted.

Politics of ethics
The House ethics committee and the FBI are both investigating, Foley is in an alcoholic recovery program after resigning from Congress, Speaker Dennis Hastert has come under fire for his handling of the matter - and public surveys indicate Republicans are paying a price in the polls.

Compounding the sense of confusion, a prominent conservative activist said Hastert's tenure as speaker would likely soon be over - one way or another.

"In all probability Speaker Hastert will be replaced next year, whether it's because the Democrats take over or it's because Republicans retain control and they decide he's been Speaker long enough," said Paul Weyrich.

In an interview, Weyrich said he was basing his prediction on recent conversations with GOP lawmakers, from "so many Republicans who are now defending the Speaker who are saying if some miracle we should hold onto the majority, 'I think we need another Speaker.'"

Last week, Weyrich stirred controversy when he called for Hastert to resign, then changed his mind. In making his most recent comments, he said he doesn't agree with those calling for Hastert to be replaced.

Presidential support
With Republicans scuffling, President Bush campaigned from the Rose Garden. He predicted his party would retain control of Congress and said the election would turn on the economy and the war on terror - not on the scandal spawned by Foley.

At a nationally televised news conference, he said six times in the space of a few moments that Democrats who support a timetable for a troop withdrawal from Iraq advocate a strategy of "cut and run."

Turning to another familiar campaign theme, he said the Democrats would raise taxes more than they will admit. "Now, I know they say only on the rich people, but that's ... just code word. They're going to raise them on whoever they can raise them on," he added.

President vs. president
Bush also took a jab at former President Clinton for his handling of North Korea, the Communist regime that claimed earlier this week it had conducted a nuclear test.

"I appreciate the efforts of previous administrations. It just didn't work," he said, after mentioning that under Clinton, the United States had engaged in one-on-one talks with North Korea.

Democrats quickly hit back on both counts.

"North Korea's apparent nuclear test is clear evidence of the failure of the Bush administration when it comes to nuclear proliferation," said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat. He accused the president's team of giving up on the "successful diplomacy" begun by Clinton.

Democratic response
As for taxes, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California responded with a statement. "President Bush and his rubber stamp Republican Congress can't seem to grasp that Democrats have long fought for middle-income tax cuts. This is in stark contrast to the Republican tax breaks for the super rich that have led to a budget that is grossly out of balance and a national debt that is morally indefensible."

In an interview last week, she said Bush-era tax cuts would have to be rolled back for those above "a certain level." She mentioned annual incomes of $250,000 or $300,000 a year and higher, and said tax rates for those individuals might revert to those of the Clinton era. Details will have to be worked out, she emphasized.

As midterms near
Both political parties have Washington-based committees that spend millions helping their candidates in both House and Senate races, often by paying for hard-hitting television ads or campaign mail, and usually in the final weeks of a campaign.

The GOP moves reflect pessimism about the party's ability to defeat Democratic Reps. John Spratt in South Carolina or Alan Mollohan of West Virginia, or capture either of two seats held by Democrats running for statewide office in Ohio.

Betty Sutton is running to succeed Rep. Sherrod Brown in one of the two; and Charlie Wilson is the Democratic candidate in the district currently represented by Rep. Ted Strickland. Brown is running for the Senate, and Strickland is the Democrats' gubernatorial candidate.

In Florida, Republicans reserved nearly $1 million in television advertising time through Election Day to aid their replacement candidate, state Rep. Joe Negron. The Democrat in the race is Tim Mahoney. Under state law, Foley's name will remain on the ballot, and any votes cast for him will be credited to Negron.

Because their money is limited, the committees customarily concentrate on the races they deem the most competitive, and a change in plans can be significant.

Despite the moves, Republicans are continuing to contest three Democratic-held seats in Iowa and Georgia, as well as the Vermont seat that independent Rep. Bernie Sanders is giving up to run for the Senate.

Democrats have scaled back advertising plans in Indiana, Illinois and Texas recently, but officials said that reflected confidence they would pick off two Republican-held seats, rather than a decision to accept defeat.

In Indiana, Republican Rep. John Hostettler trails his Democratic challenger in the polls, and in the other, former Rep. Nick Lampson is running against a write-in challenger to replace former Rep. Tom DeLay.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments