In the short run, the Collins matter isn’t likely to affect November’s midterm elections. His upstate New York district is strongly Republican (though, so was Ohio’s 12th Congressional District). But this scandal may envelop more Republicans, and Democrats have an excellent argument that whether it is former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s egregious ethical conduct, or any of the Cabinet officials who allegedly abused their travel, or Trump’s foreign emoluments and his family’s apparent self-enrichment, the GOP has become the party that tolerates corruption. Far from cleaning up government, having control of the House, Senate and White House has meant no Republican gets held accountable for anything — unless it is by the FBI and the courts.
While it is true most voters care about bread-and-butter economic issues, anti-incumbent anger has already been running high. Collins’s arrest is only going to heighten the sense that incumbents are abusing their power at the expense of ordinary Americans. And, as in 1994 when a House bank scandal helped drive the Democrats out of the majority, or the 2006 scandals that involved Republican congressmen Mark Foley and Tom DeLay, another scandal has the potential to turn a big blue wave into a tsunami.