David Kurtz

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

Articles by David

Here's where we are heading into the final weekend:

Democrats expressed growing optimism that their long season out of power might soon end. Sen. Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Democratic Senate campaign organization, claimed strong early voting in a long-shot race in Arizona and said it was "harbinger of a wave" that would benefit his party.

Five days before the election, Democratic strategists said none of their incumbents in either house of Congress was trailing — and Republicans did not disagree.

Republicans disputed Schumer's claim about Arizona, but even so, the GOP side of the political ledger was far less positive. Strategists already have written off the re-election prospects of incumbent Sens. Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania and Mike DeWine in Ohio, as well as six or more seats in GOP hands in the House. Dozens more Republican lawmakers — powerbrokers and backbenchers, conservatives and moderates — struggled to survive in a campaign shadowed by the war in Iraq and scandal at home.

A few thoughts before the whirlwind sweeps away all perspective.

Not to rain on the parade but all the talk of dramatic Democratic gains in the House has a tendency to downplay a serious underlying structural problem. Even under the rosiest scenarios, the Democrats only pick up somewhere around 50 seats. Realistically, it looks like 25-35 pickups. The House was designed to be the national political institution most politically responsive to the people. I would venture to say that given the massive train wreck that the GOP has created in public affairs, the founders would be stunned to see so few seats change hands. If these are the kinds of political conditions it takes to move 50 House seats, then we're in trouble.

GOP losses of whatever size are going to trigger a wave of internal backbiting and fingerpointing. No surprise there. But I suspect there is going to emerge a common theme among Republicans, a declaration that the political environment was so toxic that no incumbent party could expect to emerge unscathed. The more brash will declare that the GOP did quite well given the circumstances. What will be missing is any sense that the Republicans made their own bed and were forced to lay in it. The 2006 "political environment" will be treated like a weather phenomenon, something beyond our control, a freak of nature, instead of what it is: a reaction to the GOP's man-made calamity.

I hope that when the political history of the last half century is written it will show, as it should, that the Republicans engaged in a brand of divisive electoral politics that pitted Americans against each other: white against black, men against women, rich against poor, native born against immigrant, straight against gay. Republicans deserve to be tarred by history for exploiting our weaknesses, our prejudices, and our lesser selves for their own political gain. But those are still our weaknesses and our prejudices. We own them. And it is our lesser selves that have succumbed to the Republican political pitch and been willing to be exploited. Removing the Republicans from power will only be a temporary fix unless we fundamentally fix ourselves so that no one, no party, no movement can exploit those same weaknesses again.

I have to say these are the first national Democratic Party ads I've seen that strike me as sufficiently tough and hard-hitting. Not perfect. The Kyl ad is paced too slowly (is anyone under the age of 40 producing Democratic campaign ads these days?), and the Allen ad, while powerful, ends with a weak visual image. But overall this is much better than most of the earlier stuff.

So Ted Haggard has stepped aside temporarily as pastor of his mega-church and resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals. The Rocky Mountain News reports, "Some community leaders in the Colorado Springs had scheduled a rally this afternoon in support of Haggard but canceled the gathering at the request of the church."

So here we have an exploding (gay) sex scandal reminiscent of Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker, yet no mention of it on Drudge. If an angel falls in the conservative forest and Drudge doesn't link to it, did it really happen?

Late update: Drudge relents. Provides 2 links on Haggard story. Nearly 24 hours after the story first broke.

Paul Kiel has more on the NRCC's efforts to help Mark Foley with damage control after ABC approached Foley about the overfriendly emails to pages.

One of the first female soldiers to die in Iraq committed suicide, after objecting to interrogation techniques used on prisoners (via War and Piece).

A Colorado TV station reported last night that Rev. Ted Haggard, a major figure in the evangelical movement who has not hesitated to cross over into the arena of secular politics, allegedly had an ongoing sexual relationship with a gay former male escort.

Haggard denies it.

Haggard, the founder and senior leader of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, is one of the country's most prominent evangelical religious leaders, in part because of the very active role he has taken in national politics. Haggard is not as recognizable as James Dobson, who is also based in Colorado Springs, but Haggard is arguably just as influential within evangelical and conservative political circles, talking to President Bush or his advisers every Monday.

Last year Harper's ran a lengthy article featuring Haggard, and the magazine has helpfully posted the piece on its website today.

First Mark Foley, now Ted Haggard? It's hard to conjure up anything else that could further depress the turnout of conservative evangelicals.

Late Update: No mention of the Haggard story on Drudge. I thought sex and politics was Drudge's lifeblood. Maybe he's pretending not to notice this one. After all, you wouldn't want to demoralize the true believers at this late stage of the campaign.

Later update: I'm not the only one to notice a studied silence from our conservative brethren.

Election Central screens the latest political ads. Ned Lamont as Jimmy Stewart's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a little spooky.