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Will the select committee on Benghazi hurt Republicans in November?

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When political forecaster Nate Silver predicted in late March that the GOP has a slight edge in the race to control the Senate, he was instantly branded a traitor by Democrats. Who but the party of intellect would respond to disquieting news from a previously feted statistical source by calling for the messenger’s head?

Nevertheless, Silver’s prediction remains that — a forecast. It is not a certainty that Republicans will win control of the Senate in November. Right now, they have Obamacare to campaign on. According to a newly released Pew poll, 55% of Americans now say they disapprove of the health care law, an all-time high. The initial enrollment period is over, which means the administration has no more “good news” to share that will likely change that calculus in their favor between now and November.

The GOP also has the economy — or at least its continuing stagnancy five years into the Obama experiment — to run on. The White House and Democratic leaders will continue to try using misdirection to make the conversation about raising the minimum wage, which polls well for them. But the broad public consensus shows unemployment and jobs leading the list of chief concerns among Americans.

Then there is Benghazi. With the naming of Rep. Trey Gowdy, a prosecutor by trade, to head up the House Select Committee to investigate the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi attack, all the pieces are now in place … for possibly increasing the Democrats’ chances of retaining control of Senate control in November.

The White House is already busy furiously spinning the creation of the select committee. Yesterday Jay Carney called its formation a “conspiracy theory in search of a conspiracy.” Others on the left have disparaged the creation of the committee by calling it the eighth (or eightieth) GOP-led witch hunt into Benghazi.

Some have compared the investigation to that of Watergate, but there are dramatic differences. First, there is the press, or in the case of Benghazi, its refusal to report on the investigation. When the smoking gun Benghazi email was finally released last week by the White House on pain of violating a FOIA lawsuit, the media largely ignored it. The New York Times has yet to acknowledge that such an email exists.

Then there is the issue of seeming (or real) partisanship. During previous hearings, Democrats on the House committee attempted repeatedly to sabotage the investigation, complaining that the subject had been exhaustively investigated. Democrats have nothing to gain by agreeing to sit on the House Select Committee, which will help the White House in its narrative that this is partisan and that the Republicans have forsaken more important issues, such as jobs, to “relitigate the past.”

House Republicans at this point have no choice but to go forward with the hearings, which should have taken place much sooner if they were going to take place at all. John Boehner gets the blame on that point for waiting so long.

Is it possible that the Committee will unearth heretofore unheard-of details — i.e., about the failure to comply with request for enhanced security at the U.S. consulate, the precise whereabouts of President Obama and then-Secretary of State Clinton on the day of 9/11/12, ultimate responsibility for the changes to the talking points — that will be too great for the media to ignore? Yes it’s possible. My fear is that it may end up being too little, too late.

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