Thursday , October 05, 2006
WASHINGTON —House Republican candidates will suffer massive losses if House Speaker Dennis Hastert remains speaker until Election Day, according to internal polling data from a prominent GOP pollster, FOX News has learned.
"The data suggests Americans have bailed on the speaker," a Republican source briefed on the polling data told FOX News. "And the difference could be between a 20-seat loss and 50-seat loss."
Most GOP lawmakers have stood by Hastert, pending a full airing of the facts in his handling of the Mark Foley affair, in which the former Florida representative was caught exchanging salacious messages with teen pages in Congress. The new polling data, however, suggests that many voters already have made up their minds.
The GOP source told FOX News that the internal data had not been widely shared among Republican leaders, but as awareness of it spreads calculations about Hastert's tenure may change. The source described the pollster who did the survey as "authoritative," and said once the numbers are presented, it "could change the focus" on whether the speaker remains in power.
While internal GOP polls show trouble for Republicans, the newest AP/Ipsos poll also showed that half of likely voters say the Foley scandal will be "very or extremely important" when it comes time to vote on Nov. 7. By nearly a 2-1 ratio, voters say Democrats are better at combating corruption.
The same pollster who provided the gloomy news on Hastert's effect on GOP candidates nationwide did send out an advisory on Tuesday to rank-and-file Republicans that they might consider canceling appearances with Hastert in their districts. Hours later, Rep. Ron Lewis of Kentucky announced he was canceling a fundraiser scheduled for next week where Hastert was supposed to be the headliner.
Other Republicans, however, continue to stand by Hastert.
Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington, who runs the House ethics committee, offered his unabashed support during a briefing on ethics panel activities.
"I think the speaker has done an excellent job," Hastings said, later adding that his remark "is not related to the matter at hand here."
FOX News' Major Garrett contributed to this report.