Karl Marx is not someone who comes to mind as a commentator on Republican Party politics, but his observation that history repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce, is proving singularly apt for the GOP as the fall elections approach.

House Republican leader Tom DeLay became an extraordinarily powerful and effective legislator by pushing the margins of acceptable politics _ too far, as it turned out. He was forced to resign his leadership post after becoming entangled in a campaign-finance scandal. He quit the House altogether in April after two of his former top aides pleaded guilty to corruption charges in connection with the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.

DeLay may have been through with politics, but politics wasn’t through with him. He had already won the Texas GOP primary and, despite a change of residency to Virginia, the courts wouldn’t let him take his name off the ballot.

Now he faces a choice of running for a seat he doesn’t want and may not be able to win; ceding the seat to Democrats; or scaring up and campaigning for a GOP write-in candidate. For political reporters, it doesn’t get much better.

Meanwhile, a former DeLay lieutenant, Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio, finally took the hint and quit his re-election race. Ney is the target of a federal corruption probe and is widely believed to be the next shoe to drop in the Abramoff scandal. He was singled out in four guilty pleas, including one by his former chief of staff.

Although frozen out of Republican Party campaign funds and finding it tough to raise money on his own, Ney doggedly insisted on running for re-election until what seems to have been a timely intervention by Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, DeLay’s successor as majority leader. According to The Washington Post, Boehner told Ney, who faces college tuition for his two children, that if Ney ran and lost he "could not expect a lucrative career on K Street to pay those tuition bills, along with the hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills piling up."

This should all be good news for Democrats, but in the one race so far this year to fill a Republican House seat vacated by scandal, the Democrat lost despite having a seemingly gold-plated campaign issue _ the previous occupant, Duke Cunningham, was already in federal prison.

(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)