Betcha didn’t think we’d see a headline like that this year, huh? Oh well.

The latest: In a debate Monday night with her challenger, Gov. Maggie Hassan (D), the moderator asked Ayotte if she thinks Donald Trump is a role model for New Hampshire children.

Ayotte seemed caught off guard by the question but eventually came up with this answer: “There are many role models we have, and I believe he can serve as president and so absolutely.”

Minor problem: By my back-of-the-envelope calculations, there are roughly 8,000 Trump statements over the past 30 years, many of them recorded and available online, that demonstrate why he’s not a hot role model for kids. No doubt Hassan’s team began cutting an ad juxtaposing Ayotte’s comment with some of those 8,000 statements before last night’s Senate debate had even finished. And Ayotte’s team knew it:

What’s the point of trying to walk back the statement when it’s already on video and will be used against you no matter what? All that’ll do is piss off the Trump fans who were grudgingly supporting Ayotte in the first place. Now she’s got the worst of all worlds, with her base thinking she’s fickle and spineless and the opposition prepared to rub her face in her “role model” comment at the debate anyway. Worse, Democrats and their media friends are going to follow the usual playbook and put this same question — Is Trump a role model? — to other vulnerable Republican senators like Rubio and Toomey. They’ll try to do what Ayotte did in the clip by turning it around and asking if Hillary “Emailgate” Clinton is a role model for the left, but Clinton has an easy “shattering the glass ceiling!” defense to that. (She routinely tops Gallup polls of America’s most admired women, in fact.) Downballot Democrats have been straining to link their Republican opponents to Trump but have encountered unlikely interference from the top of the ticket, as Clinton has made a point of distinguishing Trump from “normal” Republicans. Ayotte just handed them a way to get around that.

It’s hard for me to believe that voters aren’t inured to rote partisan flattery of one member of a party by another, but the New Hampshire Senate race is a two-point contest right now. Ayotte praising Trump wouldn’t have to annoy many voters there for her “role model” comment to make a difference. She’s worked hard to put some distance between herself and him, refusing to endorse him to this day, and it’s paid off for her. She’s running eight points ahead of him in New Hampshire — for now. Here’s the clip followed by, yes, the predictable Hassan ad juxtaposing Ayotte with some of Trump’s greatest hits.