Three months ago, back when Republicans were dismissing the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal and this whole "culture of corruption" thing as a Democratic fantasy, Ohio Congressman Bob Ney earned a standing ovation from members of the House Republican Caucus after he announced that he had no plans to resign even if he was indicted over his dealings with Jack Abramoff.
Never mind that federal prosecutors had described Ney in court documents as having accepted gifts, trips and other things of value from Abramoff and his equally controiversial associates.
Never mind that Ney and his top aides, including his chief of staff, have been subpoenaed as part of the examination of the Abramoff case.
Republicans were on board with Ney – just as they were on board with all the other members of their caucus who have been linked directly or through their staffs with the Washington lobbying scandal.
"I'm supporting Bob Ney as he runs for reelection,"chirped National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds, R-New York. "Bob Ney is my candidate running for reelection."
Oh, what a difference 90 days can make!
Now, the GOP line is: Bob Who?
After rejecting any suggestion that he had been harmed by the Abramoff scandal for months, Ney suddenly turned course Monday and quit his reelection race. He says he won't quit his post -- as did another Abramoff ally, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay -- until his term is finished in January. But it is safe to say that Ney's political career is finished.
And Republicans are wasting no time in shoving him aside.
With Ney's withdrawal came the announcement that Republicans were preparing to settle on a replacement candidate – an Ohio legislator named Joy Padgett.
So does the Abramoff scandal have political "legs"?
Ask Bob Ney and the Republicans who are now scrambling to replace him on their ballot line.
Or, better yet, ask Conrad Burns, the conservative Republican senator from Montana who took more political contributions from the Abramoff operation -- $150,000 -- than any other member of Congress.. Burns has plenty of other problems, but there can be little doubt that the scandal has contributed to polls that have him trailing Democratic challenger Jon Tester by seven points.
"The way things are going for Montana's Conrad Burns," opined Butte's Montana Standard newspaper recently, "all challenger Jon Tester may have to do is to stay quiet until November to win the hotly contested seat."