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Scooter Libby Felony Conviction Fallout

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I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's conviction of four felony counts of lying under oath and obstruction of justice on Tuesday marked the highest-ranking White House official to be convicted in a federal investigation since the Reagan Iran-Contra scandal. Libby will likely appeal the verdict and he remains out of prison until sentencing is imposed; however, several political questions are raised in the meantime.

First, will this conviction have an impact on President Bush's image and agenda in the near future? Bush's national job approval rating is already at near record lows—33 percent in a recent USA Today / Gallup Poll, 31 percent in the last Newsweek poll, and 29 percent in the last CBS News / New York Times poll (all polls taken within the last week). Bush's approval rating in the Upper Midwest is likewise in the low- to mid-30s: 34 percent in Wisconsin, 34 percent in Iowa, and 35 percent in Minnesota (SurveyUSA). Bush has not gained any ground on his political opponents nor any cache with the public since the November 2006 Democratic mini-landslide at the ballot box, and the Libby conviction will not help him in those regards.

Secondly, in light of Libby's felony conviction, how much additional pressure will now be put on the White House—by Congressional Democrats or the public at large—for the President to make a complete statement as to how CIA agent Valerie Plame's name became known to the media in the Summer of 2003? (i.e. "What did he know and when did he know it?"). A November 2005 poll by KCCI-TV found 52 percent of Iowans believed individuals in the Bush administration acted criminally in the leaking of the CIA agent. To date, no one has been charged in the leak itself—Libby was charged for lying to federal authorities during the investigation of the leak.

Thirdly, the million-dollar question is whether or not President Bush will eventually pardon Scooter Libby. While President Clinton did receive some criticism inside the beltway for pardoning criminals at the 11th hour of his administration, nearly all of those pardons involved people out of the public eye. A pardon of a high-ranking administration official like Libby would likely provide the Democrats with even more anti-Bush fodder when running for Congress and the Presidency in 2008.

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Iowa Republicans had a banner day on November 4th, picking up both a U.S. Senate seat and one U.S. House seat, but Mariannette Miller-Meeks' defeat in her third attempt to oust Democrat Dave Loebsack in the 2nd CD means the GOP will not have a monopoly on the state's congressional delegation in the 114th Congress. The loss by Miller-Meeks (following up her defeats in 2008 and 2010) means major party nominees who lost their first two Iowa U.S. House races are now 0 for 10 the third time around in Iowa history. Miller-Meeks joins Democrat William Leffingwell (1858, 1868, 1870), Democrat Anthony Van Wagenen (1894, 1912 (special), 1912), Democrat James Murtagh (1906, 1914, 1916), Democrat Clair Williams (1944, 1946, 1952), Democrat Steven Carter (1948, 1950, 1956), Republican Don Mahon (1966, 1968, 1970), Republican Tom Riley (1968, 1974, 1976), Democrat Eric Tabor (1986, 1988, 1990), and Democrat Bill Gluba (1982, 1988, 2004) on the Hawkeye State's Three Strikes list.


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Larry Pressler may have fallen short in his long-shot, underfunded, and understaffed bid to return to the nation's upper legislative chamber, but he did end up notching the best showing for a non-major party South Dakota U.S. Senate candidate in more than 90 years. Pressler won 17.1 percent of the vote which is the best showing for an independent or third party U.S. Senate candidate in the state since 1920 when non-partisan candidate Tom Ayres won 24.1 percent in a race won by Republican Peter Norbeck. Overall, Pressler's 17.1 percent is good for the second best mark for a non-major party candidate across the 35 U.S. Senate contests in South Dakota history. Independent and third party candidates have appeared on the South Dakota U.S. Senate ballot just 25 times over the last century and only three have reached double digits: Pressler in 2014 and Ayres in 1920 and 1924 (12.1 percent). Pressler's defeat means he won't become the oldest candidate elected to the chamber in South Dakota history nor notch the record for the longest gap in service in the direct election era.


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