A Horse Race for Ohio's Deborah Pryce

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Ohio's 15th Congressional District race should have been an easy slide into an eighth term for moderate Republican Rep. Deborah Pryce. It's been anything but.

Pryce is the fourth-highest-ranking Republican in the House and the highest-ranking woman in the Republican majority. Her slide has run into two major obstacles: the Abramoff lobbying scandal and then the Foley page scandal.

Earlier this fall, Pryce seemed to have doused fiery charges of her involvement with lobbyist Jack Abramoff, described by Wikipedia.

"On Sept. 12, 2003, Pryce wrote a letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton about a Louisiana casino proposal. In the letter, Pryce, the No. 4 Republican in the House, said that Interior Department approval of a casino proposed by the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians would 'set forth a dangerous precedent' and encourage 'reservation shopping' by tribes. Republican Whip Roy Blunt sent a similar letter to Norton dated May 21, 2003. A third letter, dated June 10, 2003, was signed by Blunt, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and Republican Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor. Identical wording appears in all three letters. An aide to Senate Indian Affairs Committee Chairman John McCain said that investigators believe the letters were authored by Jack Abramoff and his employees and signed by the congressmen."

But just as those flames were becoming embers, the Foley scandal broke, and she's been fighting the ensuing forest fire again. Pryce has not been alleged to have had any prior knowledge of former Rep. Mark Foley's sexually charged E-mail exchanges with a House page. But before he resigned from Congress, she described him in a magazine interview as one of her five closest friends in the House.

Franklin County Commissioner and Democratic challenger Mary Jo Kilroy immediately took out ads on Christian and conservative radio stations, to appeal to family-values-oriented listeners. The Associated Press reported: "The ad...blames Pryce for standing by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, complaining that he looked the other way when warned of Foley's behavior." Pryce claims her poll numbers have since rebounded from a 12 percent lag behind Kilroy. She's trying to shift the race away from national concerns and back to her record of service for Columbus-area and central Ohio voters.

But you've got to give Kilroy's ad campaign team an A for effort. A recent TV ad, dubbed "The Pryce Is Wrong" and done game-show style, accuses Pryce of voting to cut funding for veterans' benefits.

National issues are having the opposite effect for Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's bid for re-election to a third term in the Senate. Hutchison has been one of fellow Texan President Bush's most ardent loyalists on the war in Iraq, saying only quite recently in a debate with Democratic challenger Barbara Radnofsky that she (Hutchison) would not have voted to support the war if she'd known there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

No political prognosticator has predicted anything but success for Hutchison, even though she'd earlier promised to "term limit" herself out of the Senate after two runs.

"It's a fair question," Ms. Hutchison said Thursday in the Senate debate in San Antonio. "I do favor term limits. I favor them right now," she said. "What I found out after I got there is that if you have term limits for one state but not the others, it disadvantages your state. So I have decided to run for a third time because I want to do what I think is best for Texas."

Term limits? Why are we even talking about term limits anymore? That is so "five elections" ago.

With that, I conclude my blogging on women-vs.-women races.