Down, But Not Out

Despite Ralph Reed’s stinging defeat in his primary last week, it looks as if attempts to write his political obituary have been a bit premature, at least according to the New York Times

Friends say it is too soon to write off Mr. Reed, who is now 45. Deal Hudson, a Catholic conservative who worked closely with Mr. Reed on the last two presidential campaigns and watched the returns with him in an Atlanta hotel suite, said Mr. Reed was already talking about how he might play a role in the 2008 race even on the night of his own defeat.

“We forget that there is nobody who is able to craft a message for religious conservatives better than Ralph Reed, and the ability to craft a message does not depend on Ralph Reed and how high his bona fides are,” Mr. Hudson said, noting that Mr. Reed could still work on direct mail, radio and television commercials, speeches and the like from behind the scenes.

In a telephone interview on Friday, Mr. Reed said he was proud of his campaign and glad that he had run. “I have been building the Republican Party and the pro-family movement for over 25 years, and I am looking forward to continuing that important work,” he said.

In his concession speech, Mr. Reed said he was not “not focused on being a candidate in the future.”

In the interview, however, he said, “First bids for elected office are always tough, and I am not the first person to lose a first campaign,” noting several examples, including Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida and Mr. Gingrich, who went on to become speaker of the House.

Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said Friday that he was sticking by Mr. Reed. In an e-mail message, he said Mr. Reed had “played a vital role” in building the party’s grass-roots networks in Georgia and around the country. He added, “I look forward to continuing to work with him and value his friendship.”

The article notes that if Reed can bring himself to ask his right-wing base for forgiveness, his prospects for the future could improve dramatically    

His contrition was not enough to win the race, but there were some signs that Georgia’s evangelical Christians might be willing to give him another chance. In the last days of the campaign, Clint Austin, a Christian lobbyist who had previously worked for Mr. Reed, circulated a public letter among Georgia Republicans explaining why he had turned against him over what he considered his deceptive tactics.

“It is time for Christians to confront and rebuke Ralph Reed, not make apologies for him,” Mr. Austin wrote. “If he truly repents (not just at election time), he can be a leader of unlimited potential.”

Not surprisingly, this is exactly what we predicted in our recent report on Reed’s defeat

Either way, Reed’s willful participation in Abramoff’s schemes, coupled with his refusal to own up to his role, meant that it would have taken a minor miracle for him to have escaped the scandal unscathed – a miracle that even the man dubbed “The Right Hand of God” ultimately couldn’t pull off.  Of course, Reed is still young.  And American politics is full of redemption stories. No doubt Reed is already writing his.