America headed toward a very "kinky election

Matt Towery

10/5/2006 12:01:00 AM - Matt Towery

It could only make sense in this political season, when an eleventh-hour revelation of sexually explicit e-mails and text messages exchanged between a congressman and current or past pages in the U.S. House suddenly grabbed all the headlines.

How fitting that Texas -- known for its wild politics -- offers an independent candidate for governor named "Kinky." Moreover, he is running neck-and-neck with the Democratic nominee and not too far behind the incumbent Republican.

Not many political strategists see a particular potential fallout from the Mark Foley scandal, in which the Florida congressman apparently made inappropriate contact on the Internet with at least one House of Representatives page. Pundits may not see it yet, but "kinky" may more than ever be the way voters are feeling this fall, and they may express themselves by voting for some third-party candidates.

First, let's clear up one thing on Foley. Yes, it was Democratic operatives who were shopping around the Foley e-mail story. I know because earlier this year the editor of our InsiderAdvantage online political newsletter in Florida called our Atlanta office. He had been offered the opportunity to learn details about damaging e-mails between Foley and house pages. The call came from a credible source with a record of information accuracy.

Why did we not take him up on the offer? Because our websites, prominently including the Southern Political Report and various state-based subscription newsletters, are devoted to advanced analysis, polling and strategy for government and political affairs clients. And that kind of information only.

When we were founded seven years ago, we committed to leave personal or scandalous stories to other news outlets better equipped and more inclined to use them.

So the Democrats pushed a story. A big story. Republicans can cry foul all they want, but the fact is, the result of it has been more than even the Democrats could have hoped for. Not only have polling numbers in tight, crucial congressional elections plummeted for the Republicans, but now their top congressional leadership is bickering in response to a call from the conservative newspaper The Washington Times, and others, for House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois to resign because he had supposedly covered up Mark Foley's wrongdoings.

The only good news for the GOP was that Bob Woodward's new book, "State of Denial," has been put on the back burner by the Foley news. Woodward's book, purported to be strictly nonfiction, details the actions of what Woodward says was a seemingly inept and overconfident Donald Rumsfeld and others as they blindly stumbled toward catastrophe in Iraq.

It stretches believability that the Republicans, usually paranoid about talking to the media, won't pass on any information to those of us who spent years in the party, but will spill their guts to Bob Woodward.

Woodward's book aside, the GOP's chances of holding on to majority control of Congress look to be on the rocks for sure. The constant drip, drip, drip of Foley revelations is taking care of that.

But again, pundits are missing the "kinky" side of things in this election season. In at least several states, independent candidates and Libertarians are showing up on ballots. In some cases, they are drawing stronger support at this stage in the election cycle than they traditionally do.

Kinky Friedman is one of them, and one of a kind. He's running for governor of Texas. Once the leader of a band called the Texas Jewboys, the irreverent country singer is polling statistically even with Democratic nominee Chris Bell and only nine points behind the Republican Gov. Rick Perry.

Friedman's campaign slogan: "Why Not?" His support base has grown with the endorsement and support of Jesse Ventura, the former professional wrestler who became governor of Minnesota.

Will Friedman win? Kinkier things have happened. Even if he doesn't, he's a sign of what's happening all over. In percentages slightly or greatly higher than history would suggest, Libertarians and other parties are winning the support of voters.

Usually these "extra" candidates get almost no support this far out from elections, and then end up with no more than two or three percent of the vote. As concern among conservatives grows about Republican leadership in Washington, support for Libertarians and others may only increase.

Wouldn't it be amazing if a series of political bombs designed by Democrats to boost their election chances instead significantly boosted support for Independents or Libertarians? The end effect might be the same -- electing a Democratic Congress. Then again, maybe there's a little kinkiness in the electorate this year.