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Chris Matthews blogs on getting the scoop (kind of) from Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) that the former House majority leader was resigned to resigning. Exciting stuff!

The post is entitled -- no kidding -- "My phone call with Tom DeLay (Chris Matthews)":

[DeLay spokeswoman] Shannon Flaherty called me at the office Monday to say that Congressman Tom DeLay, her boss, wanted to talk with me in the evening. It would be around 9:15. She said he was "not calling to complain."

Despite the heads-up, I was taken aback when the former Majority Leader came on the line Monday night.

"This is Tom DeLay." "Hi Tom," I responded before reverting to protocol. The Congressman then told me the stunning news he was dropping out of his race for re-election.

. . . and that's how the news is made. Any questions?

Who will replace Tom DeLay?

Right now, the field seems open, and a handful of Texas Republicans are eager for the opportunity.

Here's how it's going to work, according to Roll Call. First, Gov. Perry will call a special election to replace DeLay when he steps down in "late May or mid-June."

But whoever wins that race will only be in office for a number of months. The real race will be for who will be the Republican candidate in November. And that will be decided by a committee "comprised of the Republican Party chairmen of the four counties that lie within the 22nd district, and four representatives elected by the precinct chairmen from each county." So it appears that whoever is selected will be the one deemed in the eyes of the party bosses to be the best candidate. Ah, democracy.

This morning I was sharing my surprise at DeLay's resignation with Texas Monthly's Jan Reid, author of The Hammer: The Nasty, Brutish, and Shortened Political Life of Tom Delay. But Reid was more circumspect than I. "I think there's a precedent for this," he told me. "If you remember when [Newt] Gingrich went down, all of a sudden he was no longer speaker, he looked back and said, 'what's the point in being one of 435?'"

I mention this because in an online chat this afternoon, The Post's Bob Kaiser made a similar observation:

How did [DeLay] decide [to quit]? I just don't know. I suspect part of it was the realization, since he was replaced as majority leader and completely displaced from any influential role in the House, that now matter what else happens, his new life was going to be a pale comparison of his old one. He would, I suspect, simply hate the idea of being a marginal player. And that's where he was headed.

In retrospect, is it surprising more of us didn't see this coming?

Over at TPM, Josh asks what House Republicans will say now about their November 2004 votes to change House rules so DeLay could stay in the leadership, even if indicted. It was a voice vote, which meant that constituents were forced to drive their representatives into the open on how he/she voted. Back then, TPM was going full bore trying to uncover which Republicans had voted which way, and over at the Daily DeLay, they kept a running tally. You can see it here.

A total of 63 Republicans said "Yea" to the change. Was your representative among them? What does he or she say about it now?

As a number of TPMm readers have pointed out, Tom DeLay has said that he's planning to move to Virginia -- since he won the Republican primary for his House seat, his name would remain on the ballot unless he left the state.

But DeLay was indicted and arrested in Texas. He's out on bond. Can he just pull up stakes and move to another state?

Apparently, yes. A review of his bond conditions shows that there's no requirement that he remain a resident of Texas. So he's free to flee the state as he pleases -- so long as he returns to stand trial.

Here's a curiosity: Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) apparently continued to raise funds for his congressional campaign even after he decided to quit the race.

It's not nice or polite to mislead your supporters -- particularly when you've been indicted, you should really treat your backers extra good. But that's not the strategy DeLay appears to have adopted.

The embattled former House majority leader told Time magazine he decided on Weds. March 29 to quit his House race:

DeLay and his wife, Christine, said they had been prepared to fight, but that he decided last Wednesday, after months of prayer and contemplation, to spare his suburban Houston district the mudfest to come.

Yet his campaign sent out a fundraising appeal via to supporters the following evening, according to an email circulating from the makers of "The Big Buy," a new documentary about DeLay.

Does that mean DeLay uncharitably milked his supporters for cash he knew he'd never spend on his race? (Could he already have been planning to use campaign funds to pay his fast-growing legal bills?)

There's another possibility, equally unflattering: he lied to Time, backdating his decision so folks would believe he made his choice just before he learned Tony Rudy agreed to plead guilty. News of Rudy's plea became public on the morning of Friday, March 31.

Either way, it's an interesting twist.

TIME Magazine is reporting that David G. Wallace, the popular 44 year-old mayor of Sugar Land, has confirmed he'll make a bid for DeLay's seat. A fresh start for the local GOP? Well ... Wallace currently serves as investment committee chairman for Perry Properties Realty Investment Fund & Perry Properties, a commercial real estate company owned by Will Perry, who is the son of Bob Perry, a top Republican fundraiser in Texas. Perry pere, who goes way back with Karl Rove, came to national attention when he donated $200,000 to fund the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth ads. And, as TIME reports, Bob has recently been back in the news for a "gift" he made to Bill Ceverha, the former treasurer of Texas Republicans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC), the PAC at the heart of Ronnie Earle's investigation of Delay.

According to Texans for Public Justice, Perry was the largest contributor to Tom DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority PAC (TRMPAC) giving $165,000 in the 2002 election cycle.

Wallace -- remember he's the guy who may get DeLay's seat -- is also on the Board of Directors of DeLay's Rio Bend planned community, a project of the DeLay Foundation for Kids, which has come under fire as a way for would-be donors to get close to the powerful Congrsesman. At least that answers the question as to whether or not Tom DeLay will have any influence in picking his successor....

Apparently now that Tom DeLay doesn't have a congressional seat to lose, the gloves are really coming off.

This morning on Fox News Radio's Tony Snow Show, DeLay said that he's going to go after Ronnie Earle, the Texas prosecutor who indicted him on Money Laundering charges:

Texas should not allow a district attorney from Travis County have this kind of power. And they can take his power away from him because there was the Texas legislature that gave him this power. And I think that will happen in the next session of the Texas legislature.

The next session of the Texas legislature?

If such a plan has been hatched, no one has told the Speaker of Texas' House, Tom Craddick. When we called his office, spokeswoman Alexis DeLee said she hadn't heard of the plot.

More as we hear it.

Voila! As R. Jeffrey Smith pointed out in The Washington Post this morning, Tom DeLay's decision to bow out of the race means that he'll save big on campaign expenses. In my mind, this explanation for DeLay's decision to drop out has been underplayed. There were reports earlier this year that his defense fund was in the red - he needs money, and with the progress of the Justice Department's investigation against him, he's looking at the possibility of a federal indictment on top of his case in Texas.

The DeLay legal fund raised about $1.6 million over the last six years. Apparently, he's spent it all. So what's he going to do? At last count, his campaign had $1,295,350 in the bank, which he can soon use to get himself out of debt.

DeLay has good company in looking to use campaign money for his defense. Most recently, in fact, former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) recently petitioned the FEC to let him do just that.

And since the commission already ruled on Cunningham's situation, DeLay wouldn't need to ask -- he could say he's in the same boat as Cunningham, according to FEC spokesman George Smaragdis. That'd be a curious admission, to be sure, so keep your eyes open.

The White House had kind but distant words for the former majority leader this morning. But it's hard to tell exactly how sad they are to see him go.

Bush confirmed he chatted with Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) last night, who informed him of his decision. "My reaction was, it had to have been a very difficult decision for someone who loved representing his district in Texas," Bush said. "Congressman DeLay has been a good ally with whom the president has worked to get things done for the people," spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters.

Ally, indeed. "DeLay's relationship with President Bush is not a warm one," Congressional Quarterly notes in its annual profile of DeLay. "[A]t times he has stood in the way of Bush's agenda."

Bush ran hot and cold on DeLay, although recently he's been more cold than anything else. As noted in February, "Tom DeLay doesn’t attend White House briefings anymore."