The media’s vigorous effort to portray the Mark Foley scandal as a vicious blow to the Republican Party’s chances in the November elections continued on ABC's "Nightline" Thursday evening. Reporter Chris Bury’s segment focused on the competitive House race between Democrat Patty Wetterling and Republican Michele Bachmann in Minnesota’s 6th District. There was a noticeable difference in how the two candidates were described. While Bury hyped Wetterling as a woman who "has made child protection her life’s mission" with no mention of her ideological positions on any other issue, GOP candidate Bachmann was described as a "staunch" opponent to abortion and gay marriage.
Bury implied Republicans should be worried about their electoral prospects because the race in the "reliably Republican" seat is so closely contested. However, it should be noted that while Minnesota’s 6th district did elect President George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, it also has a history of competitive House races, with Democrats being elected to the seat from 1975-1981; 1983-1993; and 1995-2003.
Bury also continued to promote the theory that conservative Christians will fail to turn out to the polls because of the fallout from the Foley scandal (note Bury’s frequent invocation of the term "conservative"):
Bury: "In this conservative corner of Minnesota, where religious values hold significant political sway, the ultimate impact of the Foley factor may depend on whether it keeps Christian conservatives from voting. And recent national surveys suggest support for Republican congressional candidates has slipped among religious conservatives."
Steven Smith, Washington University, professor: "There are going to be some Christian Republicans who are saying, 'I simply cannot bring myself to hold my nose and, and vote for a Republican. I can't bring myself to vote for a Democrat either, so I'm going to stay home.'"
Bury seemed to be enamored with the conservative label, using it no less than six times during his report, using it to describe everything from "conservative Christians" to "religious conservatives" to "social conservatives."
To Bury’s credit, his report did feature a 6th district voter who, while condemning Foley’s actions, acknowledged that the scandal had nothing to do with Bachmann and would not affect his vote in November:
Bury: "...This couple told us they were each sticking with their original choices, in spite of their disgust with ex-Congressman Foley. Michele Bachmann has his vote. Patty Wetterling has hers."
[Unidentified woman #4]: "I am upset. I am upset and I think it's time to get some, maybe some more Democrats."
[Unidentified man #1]: "Michele had nothing to do with it...You know, you can't punish her for what they do over there."
Bury: "Does it influence your vote, this issue?"
[Unidentified man #1]: "Not--no."
The 6th District race was also profiled during Friday’s 7:30am half hour of CNN’s "American Morning." Like Bury, Keith Oppenheim also painted Bachmann as a conservative, while saying nothing of Wetterling’s political philosophy, noting her as a "national advocate for child safety." Oppenheim also highlighted Washington University Professor Steven Smith, who described Wetterling as being "very, very effective" on the issue of child safety.
It will be interesting to see come November if the media’s desire for the Foley scandal to drag down Republican candidates on the ballot actually comes to fruition.