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Connolly: Rangel Matter Is ‘Sad and Isolated Case’

As the House ethics committee prepares to release its full list of allegations against Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) on Thursday, some House Democrats are downplaying the effect the case could have on the November elections.

While acknowledging that Republicans will try to use the Rangel case as an indictment of all Democrats, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said Wednesday that he believes the Rangel matter is “a sad and isolated case” that won’t be part of the national narrative come Election Day.

“Are people concerned about ethics in Congress? Of course. They always are,” said Connolly, who joined fellow Virginia Democratic Rep. Tom Perriello on Wednesday morning at a breakfast meeting with reporters sponsored by Third Way.

But the freshman Congressman added that unless a pattern of corruption is found, as happened with the slew of ethics cases that emerged prior to the 1994 cycle when Republicans took over the House, he doesn’t believe the Rangel case will have an effect beyond the political career of the longtime New York Congressman.

Perriello said the economic issues facing his district are more relevant to voters than any concerns about Rangel. “People want jobs,” he said.

Speaking Monday night in the Capitol to a group of reporters, Rangel was asked about the potential effect his case could have on Democrats’ chances at the ballot box.

“That’s a political question,” Rangel said. “I’m so absorbed with my own problems that I haven’t really given it the thought it deserves.”

At Wednesday’s breakfast, during which Third Way released the results of a new poll on the economy, both Connolly and Perriello were asked what their party needs to do between now and the November elections to fight back against what is expected to be a very good year for Republicans.

“If I had a criticism of my fellow Democrats … I would say we have not been very good at weaving the narrative” of what Democrats inherited from Republicans when they took over and how the party has tried to fix it, Connolly said.

He said there is a good narrative to be told about the deficit reduction components that have been included in high-profile pieces of legislation that the Democratic-controlled Congress has passed and yet the party hasn’t been effective in telling that story.

As an example, Connolly pointed to the tax cut measures that were included in the stimulus bill. “Even we stopped talking about it,” he said. “So much about the stimulus has gotten dropped.”

Perriello agreed.

“One side has had a very consistent narrative,” he said. “They have heard very little from us.”

Connolly added that Democrats should fight back against the GOP argument that all spending is negative.

“The other side’s answer is we’ve got no plan. The contrast has to be much sharper as we move closer to November 2,” he said.

Both men said they’d welcome President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton to their districts ahead of the midterm elections.

Perriello’s desire to bring in Obama might seem somewhat surprising not only because of his falling approval ratings but also because he lost the 5th district in 2008.

“I need the base and Tom needs the base to be excited,” Connolly explained. “If somebody can excite the base it’s President Obama.”

Perriello added: “The commander in chief is always welcome.”

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