You know it is bad when the former leader of the Christian Coalition is in hot water for his part in the Jack Abramoff scandal.
However, that now appears to be the case with Ralph Reed, who is currently seeking the lieutenant governship of Georgia:
It is curious enough to see Ralph Reed, a man who was on the cover of Time magazine at age 33, the man widely credited with galvanizing evangelical Christians into a national political force, putting everything he has into a race for the relatively low-profile job of lieutenant governor of Georgia.
But it is stranger still to see him losing ground. Because of Reed's entanglement in a national lobbying scandal, a political contest that once seemed well within his grasp has turned into a battle for his personal and professional reputation, and it is not clear whether he will survive the Republican primary on Tuesday.
At a recent rally here in the northwest Atlanta suburbs, where people ate hot dogs and strawberries compliments of the Cobb County Republican Women's Club, a longtime ally of Reed's in a red "Support Our Troops" sweater pulled the candidate close and whispered anxiously in his ear.
"Don't worry," Reed said, with a glint of impatience. "We know what we're doing. Just call your friends and get them to vote." As the ally opened her mouth to speak again, he silenced her with a firm, "We're fine."
But with campaign commercials hammering away at Reed's ties to Jack Abramoff, a once-influential lobbyist who has pleaded guilty to fraud and corruption, analysts say Reed will be fine only if he can motivate his legendary base, and only if the Abramoff scandal has little effect on those voters' loyalty.
In the meantime, the moderate elements of the Georgia Republican Party, who discouraged Reed's candidacy and have savored his disgrace, view this as an opportunity to regain lost ground.
In recent weeks, Reed's Republican opponent, a veteran state senator named Casey Cagle, edged ahead in both fund-raising and independent polls. Not counting the $500,000 that Reed has given his own campaign, he has raised $2.4 million to Cagle's $2.5 million.
Yet many political observers have cautioned that it would be a mistake to underestimate Reed, a former director of the Christian Coalition, who has kept his head down, refusing interviews and publicizing his appearances only to the faithful.
"He's going to have to pull a miracle out," said Matt Towery, a pollster who once ran for lieutenant governor. "And I never bar that with Ralph."
On Thursday, Reed, wearing unscuffed cowboy boots and a star-studded belt buckle, surveyed the Cobb County event with confidence, noting that the county typically supplied one of every 10 Republican primary voters in the state.
"This is Ralph Reed country right here," he told a reporter. In addition to endorsements from former Senator Zell Miller, a Democrat who has aligned himself with the conservative Christian movement, and Rudolph Giuliani, a presidential hopeful eager to improve his connections to religious conservatives, Reed claims to have 6,000 volunteers on the ground, including more than 70 home-schooled children from 10 states.
"It will be the most effective, grass- roots, get-out-the-vote effort that this state has ever seen in a down-ballot campaign," Reed said.
Cagle countered that he had broader support, including that of the business community and of most of the state's elected Republicans.
The lobbying scandal is not an easy one to boil down to a 30-second spot. According to the charges against Abramoff, Indian tribes with casinos paid Reed to drum up religion-based anti- gambling sentiment against competing casinos, using Abramoff as a go-between. Reed now says he believed Abramoff's assurances that he was not being paid with gambling money.
"Had I known then what I know now," he has said repeatedly, "I would not have undertaken the work."
Yet e-mail messages released by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee make it clear that Reed knew who was paying him and suggest that he helped funnel the money through other entities to disguise its source.
On Wednesday, a Texas Indian tribe filed suit against Abramoff and four associates, including Reed, accusing them of "greed, corruption and deceit."
Reed's critics seized on the scandal as proof that he had deployed his Christian supporters for profit.
"Ralph Reed sold out our values," Cagle's advertisements say, calling him "hypocritical and immoral" and accusing him of "manipulating Christians for casinos."
"There's confusion among the Christian conservatives," said Towery, the pollster. "I'm not going to say Cagle's taking the base, but he's picking away at it."
If you can't trust someone as morally superior as Ralph Reed, who can you trust in the Republican party?
Reed joins the long list of Delay, Rove, Libby, Ney, Cunningham, Bill Frist, George Ryan, Ernie Fletcher, Bob Taft, and many others, who have helped spawn this Republican culture of corruption to what it is today.
Apparently deaf and dumb, House Majority Leader John Boehner refuses to admit their is an ethics problem in his party and is unwilling to pass ethics reform in Congress.
This fall, we as voters have a chance to remedy this problem by voting these guys out of office and electing a new generation of leaders in office who will take this issue seriously and who will work to see that confidence is once agian restored in our government.
Vote for change this fall! Vote Democrat!