Hope and change: Etheridge now trails in House race after assault video goes viral

The media isn’t treating it as a “macaca” moment, of course, but for the moment voters are. Ellmers 39, Etheridge 38, with Etheridge’s favorable rating now a robust 26/40. Before the “hug” heard ’round the world, this was considered a safe seat for Democrats.

Are we making too much of it, though?

It reminds me of a poll we did immediately after Joe Wilson’s ‘you lie’ incident. He was trailing challenger Rob Miller 44-43. But with the passage of time SC-2 has not really emerged as a competitive seat for this fall, even though the amount of money Miller raised off that incident likely dwarfed what Ellmers is going to be able to do. If you do a poll immediately after something like this has been all over the news for a few days you are liable to get numbers that show a misleadingly close race. It may end up that Etheridge really is vulnerable this fall, but I am skeptical. We’ll have a much better idea of where he really stands in polls taken after this story’s media cycle runs out.

If anything this strikes me as Etheridge’s low water mark. If he’s only down by a point after what will certainly be the worst week of the campaign for him he’ll probably be fine this fall even if his winning margin might not match some of the lopsided victories he’s posted in his last few campaigns. I’m sure we’ll poll it when a little more time has passed.

Geraghty counters by noting Etheridge’s dismal favorables plus the fact that clear majorities of voters in the district say they’re less likely to vote for a candidate who voted for ObamaCare (53 percent) and TARP (61 percent). Good points both, but in light of those numbers and The One’s own horrible approval rating in NC-2 (38/55), shouldn’t Etheridge be doing … much worse than he is? Everything is against him at the moment except the fact of his incumbency, and if you believe the media’s “throw the bums out” theory for Democratic losses, that should actually be a major strike against him too. The seat’s obviously going to be more competitive than it might otherwise have been but how much legs does the assault video really have, especially given Etheridge’s public apology immediately afterwards? I’m inclined, reluctantly, to side with PPP’s explanation on this one, especially if it turns out that the students were somehow associated with the GOP (which may be the case). In a sane world that wouldn’t matter, but surely Etheridge will be able to squeeze a few points out of the partisanship factor and regain a lead. Although if he tries to choke another kid on the street before the election, all bets are off.

Here’s a nice crosstab for you. Fourteen percent say the video makes it more likely that they’ll vote for him. That’s how you deal with a wingnut, I guess.