Along with the ever inflammatory issue of the US occupation of Iraq this years election will also be campaigned around the Foley scandal that has rocked Capitol Hill in recent weeks.

“Foley’s departure in disgrace has added a sexual dimension to an ethics cloud hovering over the Republican majority less than five weeks before Election Day” the Associated Press reports.

The gay Republican congressman has been accused of sending explicit e-mails to young congress aides. The e-mails, it is alleged were not fully acted upon by the speaker of the house, Dennis Hastert (IL-R) despite knowing about them as far back as 2000 the Washington post alleges. He is now being asked to resign as well.

The scandal is seen, particularly by the democrats as a huge blow to the Republican image as representing ‘family values’. Indeed the Washington Post reports on a new poll by Newsweek which indicates the Foley scandal is doing significant damage to the Republicans’ political fortunes and could sink their chances of holding onto control of Congress on Election Day, Nov. 7.

The poll found that 52 percent of Americans, including 29 percent of Republicans, believe Hastert was aware of Foley’s Internet communications with underage pages and tried to cover up Foley’s actions. More of those polled, 42 percent, now say they trust Democrats to do a better job handling moral values than Republicans; 36 percent favoured Republicans on the values question.”

The handling of Iraq and this scandal have prompted many to believe that the Democrats can overturn the Republican Congress majority that has stood since 1995.

The Republicans have traditionally opposed such issues as gay marriage and abortion with strong links to the powerful Christian right lobby.

This comes after a growing conflict between the Christian right and more liberal parties surrounding votes on new laws regarding same sex marriage and other family values issues prompted by the electoral success of evangelical president Bush.

However this also comes as news of an increase in openly gay cohabitation across the traditionally socially conservative mid west according to The Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy.

The study also says that anti gay rights campaigning has had the opposite effect than that desired; “By launching anti-gay campaigns in the Midwest, gay rights opponents greatly increased the visibility of gay people and issues.

“As the media provide more accurate reporting on GLB issues, people in these states heard more about their lives – repeatedly. More exposure and more self-recognition, plus a political incentive to come out, all create a path towards self-acceptance and coming out.”