One must always take care when reading a Robert Novak column, but he says something here which I think is substantially correct. He’s speaking about the DeLay admonishments, and comparing the situation to those of Jim Wright in 1989 and Newt Gingrich in 1998.
“With DeLay’s wings clipped, he will fall to Earth,” a Republican power broker told me. But that is not the prevailing view inside the House Republican conference, whose members are grateful for his leadership, his cash contributions and his Texas coup that guarantees two more years of a Republican House majority. DeLay, lacking Gingrich’s egotistical exuberance, is willing to stay off television and work outside the spotlight. That makes him a harder target to hit than Gingrich, and in the end a more dangerous enemy for Democrats.
Just before Wright and Gingrich fell, prominent supporters of each told me they had lost confidence. No such winds are blowing against DeLay, only outrage against Pelosi and the normally less partisan Democratic whip, Steny Hoyer. More House wars await in 2005.
This is key. House Republicans support Tom DeLay, to the point where Ethics Committee chair Joel Hefley is being threatened for daring to uphold the rules against him. They support DeLay because he supports them financially and electorally, and because he’s been extremely effective at pushing the GOP agenda through the House. As long as DeLay has this support, Democrats and clean-government groups and Judicial Watch can caterwaul all they want for him to step down. It ain’t gonna happen.
The only way to crack this support, at least until such time as DeLay himself is indicted along with his cronies, will be to change the perception that a close association with DeLay is beneficial for the GOP rank and file. The only way that’s going to happen is for the Democrats to hold at least two or three of the redistricted Texas seats and to achieve or come close to achieving a majority in the House. Knocking off a few of the faux GOP “moderates” who vote with DeLay 90+% of the time would help.
UPDATE: Jesse takes apart the rest of Novak’s column.