Will Ethics Meltdown Doom Democrats in 2010? Times Asks on Front Page

In the run-up to the 2006 elections, the Times maintained a daily drumbeat of Republican scandal stories like Rep. Mark Foley, as well as a heavy focus on federal failures after Hurricane Katrina, to suggest that Republicans would suffer previously in the 2006 congressional elections(they did, losing the House and Senate).

Reporter Jeff Zeleny provided some balance in Friday's front-page "political memo," "Rash of Scandals Is Not What Democrats Need."

The print headline has a slight tone of commiseration for the Democrats: It's hard to imagine the Times running the headline "Rash of Scandals Is Not What Republicans Need." That aside, Zeleny didn't hedge the defensive state of the Democratic party:

The ethical woes facing Democrats are piling up, with barely a day passing in recent weeks without headlines from Washington to New York and beyond filled with word of scandal or allegations of wrongdoing.

The troubles of Gov. David A. Paterson of New York, followed by those of two of the state's congressmen, Charles B. Rangel and Eric J. Massa, have added to the ranks of episodes involving prominent Democrats like Eliot Spitzer, Rod R. Blagojevich and John Edwards.

Taken together, the cases have opened the party to the same lines of criticism that Democrats, led by Representatives Nancy Pelosi, now the House speaker, and Rahm Emanuel, now White House chief of staff, used effectively against Republicans in winning control of the House and Senate four years ago.

The mix of power and the temptations of corruption can be a compelling political narrative at any time. But with voters appearing to be in an angry mood and many already inclined to view all things Washington with mistrust, the risks for Democrats could be that much greater this year.

With Election Day still eight months away, there is time to avert a history-is-repeating-itself storyline. But Democrats, who are already on the defensive over the economy, health care and federal spending and are facing a re-energized conservative movement, suddenly have a set of ethical issues to deflect as well.

After noting that the Democrats gained control of Congress in 2006 by campaigning against the G.O.P.'s "culture of corruption," Zeleny asked:

So is that moment - in reverse fashion - now approaching for Democrats?