Rove and Foley: If they had a plan, it didn't work

A source tells the New Republic that the White House pushed Foley into running for reelection out of fear that the GOP would lose the House without him.

Published October 12, 2006 4:13PM (EDT)

Bob Novak reported last week that National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Tom Reynolds pushed a reluctant Mark Foley into running for reelection this year even after he learned that Foley had sent "overfriendly" e-mail messages to a 16-year-old House page.

As the New Republic's Ryan Lizza is reporting, it appears that Reynolds wasn't the only one putting pressure on Foley. Karl Rove's political team may have pushed Foley into a race he didn't want to run by telling him that his career as a lobbyist might suffer -- hint, hint -- if he didn't keep his Florida seat safe for the GOP.

Lizza's source, who describes himself as a "friend" of Foley's, says that the congressman had all but decided not to run by early 2006. But when the friend saw Foley in the spring of this year, he says that Foley told him he was in the race after all. Foley said that "the White House and Rove gang" had pushed him into it. "He said, 'The White House made it very clear I have to run,'" the source tells Lizza. The source says that Foley told him the White House had said that two more years in Congress would "enhance his success" as a lobbyist. "They're scared of losing the House and the thought of two years of Congressional hearings, so I have two more years of duty," the source quotes Foley as saying.

If the source has the story right, it's hard to imagine a political plan that has backfired any worse than this one has. If Foley had decided not to run six months ago, the Republicans might -- might -- have lost his seat in the House, but his decision wouldn't have had any repercussions on any other House seats. Now the GOP is braced to lose as many as 30 seats in the House next month -- Reynolds' among them -- and a slew of new polls suggest that those fears aren't exactly unfounded. Worse still: We haven't even heard yet what former Reynolds and Foley aide Kirk Fordham is telling the House Ethics Committee today as to who knew what and when about the disgraced congressman's contacts with underage House pages.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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