Woodward book, Foley fallout knocks Republican Party off message

Republicans are scrambling to contain the damage of two separate political headaches that share a common theme accusations that the party is hiding the truth.

At the White House, President George W. Bush's team is rebutting a new book that suggests that he misled Americans about the severity of the violence in Iraq. On Capitol Hill, House Republican leaders are facing questions of what and when they knew about former Replublican Rep. Mark Foley's inappropriate electronic communications with teenage boys who had worked as pages.

"These two events have a chance to be a cloud over the entire Election Day," said Scott Reed, a Republican strategist, who lamented the terrible timing for Republicans with just five weeks before the Nov. 7 election.

Added Tony Fabrizio, another Republican consultant: "It's almost like the perfect storm forming against us."

Republicans already were operating in an unfriendly political environment when last week, in a one-two punch, excerpts of Bob Woodward's new book, "State of Denial," surfaced and Foley, a six-term Florida congressman, abruptly resigned after media reports that he sent sexually suggestive messages to former Congressional pages. The tawdry turn of events set off finger-pointing among House Republicans.

Before all that, polls showed widespread disapproval of the Republican-run Congress and the public favoring Democrats to win control of the House and Senate. At the same time, Bush's support remains low as does the popularity of the Iraq war, reports AP.

Control of Congress hangs in the balance. Democrats need to gain 15 seats to take the reins of the House and six to seize power in the Senate.

The White House and Republicans had hoped to close the last congressional work week before the campaign homestretch highlighting the Republicans national security efforts. Congress sent the president legislation regulating the prosecution of terrorism suspects and allowing the building of fencing along parts of the U.S.-Mexico border.