Today is the first day of the rest of Ralph Reed's career. If he wins the primary for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia, as some expect, he's on track (argues John Nichols) to become president of the United States. If he loses, he becomes the most powerful victim of the Jack Abramoff scandal - a cherubic has-been who'll not only look like Dave Foley, but get more laughs. (My interview with Abramoff scandal chronicler Matt Continetti is here.)
The LA Times' Richard Fausset has a good backgrounder on the race.
His opponent, conservative state Sen. Casey Cagle, has hammered Reed over his connections to Abramoff, the once-powerful Washington insider who in January pleaded guilty to fraud, tax evasion and bribery.
Specifically, Cagle has criticized public relations jobs in which Reed rallied Christian conservatives to thwart regional gambling initiatives. In some cases, that work was funded by competing gambling interests represented by Abramoff, according to the conclusions of a U.S. Senate committee.
"Reed said gambling is immoral, but took millions of dollars from convicted felon Jack Abramoff to help casinos," a recent Cagle TV ad said, referring to Reed's "record of betrayal."
Sean Flynn's GQ profile of Reed is worth reading, too, but I'm having trouble finding corroboration of the anti-Reed spin I've heard recently. Spin #1 - As head of the Georgia GOP in 2002, Reed coasted on the success of ticket and claimed responsibility for organizing skills that an earlier 1998 race showed he didn't have. Spin #2 - Gov. Sonny Perdue, who won an amazing upset in 2002, never forgave Reed for steering money away from his race and into the (also successful) race of now-Senator Saxby Chambliss. Reed was dislodged from the Georgia GOP after Perdue won, and Perdue obviously is interested in helping Casey Cagle prevent Reed from becoming his new running mate.
The Hotline's Jonathan Martin argues that Democrats, not evangelical conservatives, should be rooting for a Reed victory. With any luck, the Georgia Dems will be as lucky tonight as they've been for the past four years. (Read: Completely luckless.)
Reason's Charles Oliver tackled Reed's political manifesto 10 years ago here.