You've probably noticed all the press Rep. Christopher Shays (R-4) has been getting this weekend. His quote, if you missed it:
"Tom's conduct is hurting the Republican Party, is hurting this Republican majority and it is hurting any Republican who is up for re-election," Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., told The Associated Press in an interview, calling for Delay to step down as majority leader. (AP)
"He is on the thinnest of ice as far as I'm concerned," said Shays, who noted that the conservative Texan has been reprimanded three times by the House ethics committee. "That is disquieting. It raises huge questions that Democrats have a right to raise." (Urban)
Wow. Shays has been critical of DeLay before, but this is pretty strong. He could be seen as actually encouraging the Democrats to attack (which they will). We can safely assume that DeLay won't be coming to Greenwich to campaign for Shays anytime soon.
What's Shays up to? Is this part of his political plan?
[Scott McLean, a professor of politics at Quinnipiac University] said that Shays is doing the smart thing by initiating a pre-emptive strike.
"I would think he would be crazy not to, given his political situation," McLean said. "He's not going to score any points by embracing DeLay, and there is no love lost between them." (Urban)
As we've already seen from an analysis of two recent District 4 elections, Shays's district is changing rapidly. He's been pegged by Democrats as one of the Republicans most likely to lose in 2006--but unlike Rob Simmons, who has toed the party line in exchange for a steady stream of cash, Shays has broken from DeLay and the conservatives in the party.
Is running against his own party the only way Shays can win in 2006? DeLay and GOP conservatives like him are not popular here, to be sure. Tellingly, Shays is acting less like a typical Republican congressman and more like popular governor Jodi Rell: strong on ethics, moderate on social issues, and prudent on fiscal matters (Social Security). If it works for Rell, why not for Shays?
It's a risky gamble. The Republican leadership controls an unimaginable amount of campaign cash: Shays is risking losing his funding. Of course, he represents one of the richest districts in the country, so funding might not be a huge issue.
Of course, voters might decide that they want an actual Democrat in Congress instead of a Republican who sometimes reminds them of one. In a race which revolves around figuring out which candidate is less like Tom DeLay and the Congressional Republicans... won't Congressional Republican Shays come out a loser? That's the biggest risk of all.
"GOP congressman says DeLay should step down as House majority leader." Associated Press 10 April 2005.
Urban, Peter. "Shays: DeLay on thinnest ice." Connecticut Post 10 April 2005.