Monday, November 19, 2007

It's Bye, Bye Keller Time

I know it's Presidential Campaign season so writing about lowly Congressional District races is not very sexy. With 18 House Republicans set to leave in the 2008 cycle, we will have a lot of fresh faces and the DCCC is working hard to target the ones where we have a better than average chance to win. Here in Central Florida, we have not one, but two nationally targeted races.

I've gone through what I consider the vulnerabilities of both Ric Keller and Tom Feeney. Keller's real danger is the primary but his opponents, although well-known, are not nearly as effective in fundraising. His likely Democratic opponent and a rematch would be Charlie Stuart who is outraising everyone in the race including Keller.

Feeney's opponent is a somewhat well-known state politician with at least a little baggage. The strategy here is to link Feeney, not to Bush who still comes out on top in the heavy military district, but to Abramoff. In fact, only polls indicating Feeney-Abramoff ties give the Democratic challenger, Susan Kosmos any chance at all and Feeney still has a 9 point lead.

This month, however, it has become perfectly clear that Ric Keller is on the chopping block.

More after the jump...

In the November issue, Harper's does a real take-down of Keller and I suspect the timing is intended to expose a vulnerability that lawyer Todd Long might not have gone after without it:

It seems that every time a member of Congress divorces his spouse, has an affair, consorts with a prostitute, or exchanges racy emails with a teenage page, the media brings out charges of hypocrisy and trumpets the betrayal of the “family values” platform. However, many of the accused didn’t actually run on “family values”–they just happen to be Republicans, and that’s good enough for a press too lazy to do its homework. That’s why it’s so refreshing to uncover a true, unreconstructed, all-American family values hypocrite–Congressman Ric Keller of Florida.

Out of all the Republican "Family Values" guys they could have taken on - think Larry Craig and Bathroom Follies, Mark Foley and Frolicking Pages, Bob Allen and Big Black Man in Bathroom Stall or Dave Vitter and The Merry Madams - they pick a guy who had an affair with a campaign worker and then married her. In the grand scheme of Family Values, this seems a little like picking a daisy because the roses have thorns.

Harper's is apparently offended because Keller used his wife as part of his initial campaign. Huh? Doesn't every politician these days trot out the dutiful spouse? Is it because they can once again impeach Jim Dobson's judgement in backing political candidates:
According to the Orlando Weekly, Dobson “ran radio spots for Keller and campaign literature quoted him saying that Keller was ‘the obvious choice for those who care about the biblical values upon which our nation was founded.’”

The timing is suspicious but the results could be devastating. Keller's response was ridiculous.
"Regrettably, one out of two marriages in this country end in divorce, and my first marriage didn’t work out. My first wife and I split in 2002. I remarried years later in 2005. I’m happily married with a new daughter and another little girl on the way. Any rumor or innuendo that there’s anything more to it is false and a cheap political stunt. "

As the article in Harper's notes:
I spoke with four people, each of whom would only speak with me on condition of anonymity, and each of whom told me that Keller’s relationship with the staffer began while he was still married.
The chronology is damning. Beyond the issue of an affair is whether Keller used his office to reward a sexual relationship and, since married, used his office to reward his new wife.

In the world of negative campaign ads, some 527 is sure to have a field day with this in the primary making it very difficult. One way or the other, however, I think it's "Bye, Bye Keller" time.