The Hammer nails himself

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In a way, it wasn't much of a surprise. After former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay won his three-way primary handily last month, his friends saw it as vindication. And, in a way, it was–he was a winner among Republicans. But once that faded–and one of his former top aides pleaded guilty to conspiracy last week–reality set in: He could lose his race. And if there is an indictment in his future because of the Jack Abramoff scandal, he would, in all probability, have to give up his race anyway.

So the Hammer decided to nail himself.

It was a smart, pragmatic decision for a man known for his political instincts. As one senior House member told me this morning, "Now he looks like a guy who took a bullet for the team" rather than a loser. Besides, he adds, this is not good news for the Democrats, who were counting on having DeLay as their poster child for what they call the "culture of corruption" in the House. "It's kind of hard to talk about a guy who's not here anymore," this source says.

No doubt, the Democrats will try–because they may have more opportunities. Two of DeLay's top former aides have already pleaded guilty in the Abramoff scandal, and another one has been implicated. While DeLay and his attorney say they are not a target of the investigation, that could easily change. And my sources tell me that the Justice Department is circling the wagons around DeLay, who may be the last man left standing–until he, too, falls. Don't forget–he is already under indictment in Texas for money laundering, which is why he had to step aside as majority leader over the winter. This man will have huge legal bills–and now he can use his campaign funds to pay them.

My GOP House sources say that DeLay's stock is probably higher now than it has been over the past year. And what will a House without DeLay look like?

"More diversity of opinion, more of an effort to deal with Democrats," says this source. Doesn't sound bad to me. Not bad at all.