In my mind's eye , I see House Speaker Dennis Hastert stubbornly clenching his teeth around a fraying tether, hanging from a high wire. But we all know that tether's going to unravel when polls start showing he's costing Republicans more than he's bringing to them. Guess what: Those polls have arrived.
Even the We Spin, You Decide network (otherwise knows as Fox News), which normally tilts decidedly right in its coverage, reports the following on its website:
Internal polling data from a prominent GOP pollster, however, show that House Republican candidates will suffer massive losses if Hastert remains speaker until Election Day. A GOP source briefed on the polling data told Fox News that the data suggest House Republican losses could be catastrophic if Hastert's speakership continues. Still, the GOP source familiar with the polling data said that while most GOP lawmakers have stood by Hastert, pending a full airing of the facts in his handling of the Foley matter, this data now suggest that many voters have already made up their minds. "The data suggest Americans have bailed on the speaker," the source told Fox News. "And the difference could be between a 20-seat loss and a 50-seat loss.'"
Self-described independent pollster Scott Rasmussen's website reports:
Sixty-one percent of American adults believe that Republican leaders have been "protecting [Mark] Foley for several years." A Rasmussen Reports national opinion survey conducted Tuesday and Wednesday nights shows that only 21 percent believe that the leadership "just learn[ed] about Foley's problems last week. The data support speculation that this issue could have a devastating impact on Republican prospects at the polls this fall. Even among Republicans, 31 percent believe the GOP leadership has been protecting Foley. Just under half (46 percent) of the GOP faithful believe that congressional leaders just learned about the problem.
Lastly, a diligently nonpartisan AP-Ipsos poll "found about half of likely voters say recent disclosures of corruption and scandal in Congress will be 'very' or 'extremely' important when they cast their votes. That group is much more likely to vote Democratic."
How will we know when the end is near for the speaker? When we see President Bush back off his strong support for Dennis Hastert. The man he called a "father," "coach , " and every other honorable family-friendly moniker he could muster could quickly see those kind words dissipate as public opinion turns against him and the GOP.