Now that a Fifth Circuit appeals panel has ruled that Tom DeLay’s name must stay on the ballot as the Republican nominee for Congress in District 22, what are the political ramifications? After federal District Judge Sam Sparks ruled against DeLay earlier this summer, some Republicans, and even DeLay himself, speculated that he might be well placed to run a vigorous campaign against Democrat Nick Lampson after all. He would stump against his favorite bogeyman — activist federal judges — for attempting to deny the voters in his district a choice of candidates in the general election. Some Democrats were reminded of the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for; it might come true.”

When the Fifth Circuit upheld Sparks, however, the “activist judges” argument lost its sting. If the U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear the appeal of the Republican Party of Texas, or rules against the RPT and DeLay, any remaining sympathy for DeLay as a victim of the courts would evaporate.

Then DeLay would face a difficult choice. Had he been declared ineligible, he could have used the money in his campaign treasury for his defense fund; remember, he still faces a possible trial on money laundering charges in Austin next year. Now he will have to decide whether to run a full-fledged race, diminishing the funds available for his defense, or whether to run a token race and save the money. I doubt that the lobbyists and interest groups who used to lavish funds upon him will be quite so eager to contribute to him this time around.