Voters turn against Republicans over Foley sex scandal

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The Independent US

The scandal over a Republican Congressman's sexually explicit e-mails to teenage interns has seeped outside Washington and fixed itself in the minds of voters across the country - helping to give Democrats a genuine chance of ending Republican control of Congress.

A new poll suggests that more than half of voters will have the scandal over Mark Foley in their minds when they come to vote in November's crucial mid-term elections.

The poll, carried out for the Associated Press, found that about two out of three voters will vote for a Democratic candidate rather than a Republican - based partly on a belief that Democrats will be better placed to deal with corruption.

Of particular concern to Republican leaders will be the finding that even some Republican groups are split over which party can better tackle corruption.

In the early part of last month, Mike Simpson, the Republican Congressman from Idaho, told the AP that he was confident his party will retain both the House and the Senate. But, following the revelations about Mr Foley and his pursuit of teenage Capitol Hill interns, or pages, he was no longer "confident" Republicans will retain the House, where they currently hold a 15-seat advantage. "From Thursday it went from fairly confident we were going to keep the majority to a real toss-up," he said.

The Foley scandal has the potential to be especially damaging to the Republicans not simply because it relates to the taboo of sexual behaviour with young people, but because it raises serious questions about the failure of the party's leadership in the House to address the issue.

The House Speaker, Dennis Hastert, under intense pressure, has insisted he only learned of the e-mails after Mr Foley resigned, but a number of other Congressmen and their aides have said they informed the Speaker's office of their concerns months before.

One Republican who is going to switch his vote for the first time this election as a result of the scandal is Lawrence Nuccio, a 78-year-old from Glen Cove, New York. "I'm a registered Republican, but when I turn around and see them trying to cover-up - and that's what they're doing - and try to pass the buck to the Democrats, that's not right," he said.

He added: "You have elected officials who are running the country and you assume are doing the right thing, but they're not."