Some are writing Rep. Bob Etheridge's political obituary after his videotaped tussle with two (apparent) college kids went viral, but his re-election campaign may not be dead yet. The Congressman has represented the historically Democrat district in North Carolina for seven straight terms, and his Republican rival, Renee Ellmers, is a nurse with a slim political record and only $5,462 in campaign funds as of mid-May. Still, Ellmers says the spat has triggered a flood of donations. Will Etheridge's attack end his career, or could he live to fight another day? (Watch Renee Ellmers' comments on the Etheridge incident)
This video turns the tables in favor of the Republicans: Etheridge's "bizarre" response in the viral video will almost certainly have "political consequences" in the fall, says John Fund in The Wall Street Journal. The videotape will "inevitably" play a central role in commercials "playing into Republican charges" that Etheridge has "grown arrogant in office." And Ellmers, while inexperienced, is an "attractive Tea Party-backed candidate."
"Giving new meaning to 'bully' pulpit"
History suggests otherwise: The "history of political gaffes" and their impact on rivals' fundraising efforts actually favors Etheridge, says Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post. Ellmers will certainly get a short-term boost, but "her chances of winning the race won't vastly improve." The key precedent here is Michele Bachmann's controversial labeling of Obama as "anti-American" in 2008. Her rival raised $2 million off the resulting outrage, but ultimately lost. Etheridge's career isn't over yet.
"Bob Etheridge and the political power (or lack thereof) of a gaffe"
But there's plenty for Etheridge's opponent to use against him: Until now, Etheridge's success in North Carolina has been based on his "centrist voting record," says Sean Trende at Real Clear Politics. But lately, he has "voted the national Democratic line" on issues such as the stimulus package and health-care bill (which only 37 percent of his constituents supported), perhaps over-confident of his opponent's "weakness." As "cash flows into Ellmers' coffers," there's a "pretty clear scenario to see how he loses."
"Is Etheridge in trouble?"