Conservative activists are generally quick to defend their icons, and Wednesday they promptly declared that the criminal indictment of Tom DeLay, announced by Travis County district attorney the most powerful Republican on Capitol Hill, was nothing more than a partisan smear.
But they also seem to be in a melancholy mood, fearing the corruption charge may sour the voters on GOP rule and hurt the conservative cause.
"Man, is this a drag," conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg lamented online Wednesday. "This is terrible turf for Republicans to get stuck playing on. This will be folded into Frist's hassles and ... obviously Jack Abramoff's well-deserved troubles," reports Detroit Free Press.
DeLay said he had done nothing wrong and blasted Countyas a "partisan fanatic." Other Republicans joined him in calling the DA's three-year investigation into the 2002 state legislative campaigns a political witch hunt.
But Earle, 63, who has called the DeLay investigation the most important of his career and abandoned plans to retire last year so he could finish it, shrugged off the accusations about his motives: "What else are they going to say?"
With all statewide offices and both houses of the Legislature firmly in the hands of Republicans, Earle is widely regarded as one of the most powerful Democrats remaining in Texas. But he points out that he's investigated four times more Democrats than Republicans, including some friends. He once even filed charges against himself for missing the campaign finance reporting deadline by a day, informs the Washington Post.