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January 4, 2006
Predictions Of Fallout From Abramoff

With the plea deal in place and the prospect of decades of hard time staring him in the face, Jack Abramoff has little choice but to cough up as many of his co-conspirators in the halls of power as he must in order to minimize his prison time, and to make that time as comfortable as possible. I doubt he will err on the side of discretion when calculating what he has to do to ensure his future life outside of the federal penal system, and so we can expect that all of the Abramoff skeletons will come tumbling out of the closet. That will lead to a strange season in national politics, with the Congress reeling from the scandal and the executive holding the field by default rather than by design.

What does this mean for 2006 and 2008? Right now, here's how I see it:

* All politics are local -- I agree with Dafydd that the scandal is unlikely to affect the balance of power in Congress all by itself, except for those specific legislators that get nailed for corruption -- and even then, the lack of real competition will still mean a different Republican or Democrat will replace the one removed for malfeasance. Only if Abramoff never implicates a single Democrat -- unlikely, given the circumstances -- will the House roll to the Dems in '06. If so, the GOP will deserve it for not cleaning their own house first.

* Alito and other nominees get through -- The Abramoff scandal so far completely involves Congress and not the executive. When the complete list of legislators tainted by connection to Abramoff gets reported by the DoJ instead of the Washington Post and New York Time, thought to be as many as 300, these politicians will busy themselves with scouring their reputations through positive public works, not negative partisan attacks. Congress will lose much of its influence in the coming weeks thanks to Abramoff and this investigation, and its popularity will descend even further than once thought possible going into the 2006 elections.

* No insiders for President in 2008 -- The most significant development from this scandal will be the almost-certain disqualification for serious Presidential runs by anyone currently on the Hill, including Hill(ary) herself. Abramoff's stench will touch everyone currently noted for front-runner status, except possibly the most radical of Democrats, such as John Kerry -- who isn't going to get a second chance anyway. The next President of the US will be someone in a governor's seat now, and someone who hasn't served in Congress before. It could very well be Mitt Romney against Bill Richardson or Mark Warner.

We'll see how it develops, but if the Abramoff corruption goes as deep as prosecutors say, look for an unprecedented series of power shifts in the next two cycles -- not partisan, but demographic, as American voters start looking for fresh choices.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 4, 2006 6:04 AM

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