In New Hampshire on Thursday night, the final debate between Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Republican candidate Scott Brown concluded with a moment of controversy. Brown’s biggest adversary on that debate stage was not Shaheen, but one of the debate hosts.

During Thursday’s debate, WMUR analyst James Pindell got into a bit of a verbal sparring match with Brown over some of the details of New Hampshire’s geography. Pindell asked that Brown to elaborate the issues facing residents of Sullivan County, an area bordering Vermont in New Hampshire’s west. Brown replied by noting that northern New Hampshire does not have the access to the same number of economic opportunities as do the Granite State’s southern counties.

“I think you were talking about the North Country,” Pindell replied.

“I’m talking about any place past Concord,” Brown clarified, much to Pindell’s dissatisfaction.

“Sullivan County is west of Concord. It’s not north of Concord, Senator Brown,” Pindell insisted.

It was a stinging sound bite, and one that will play directly into the Shaheen campaign’s central attack on Brown focused primarily on his “carpetbagger” status. There is only one problem: Pindell was wrong.

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After being informed of his mistake, Pindell issued an on-air apology to Brown. That was the right move from the WMUR analyst, and he should be applauded for it. The damage, however, has been done. A fraction of the debate viewers who witnessed this brutal exchange will have seen Pindell’s subsequent apology, and Shaheen’s operatives are quietly contemplating the ethics of running with the clip if only to accentuate the theme that Brown is, at heart, a Massachusetts man.

What’s more, Democratic partisans are unlikely to even be privy to Pindell’s clarification and may simply not be aware that Brown was correct. Case in point:

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The video Kohn links to is hosted on the YouTube page for New Hampshire’s Democratic Party, indicating the degree to which the ethicists on the Democratic side of the aisle in the Granite State are willing to embrace dishonesty here.

“If I were the candidate, I would be really, really angry,” MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski said.

Both Brown and Shaheen’s campaign are set to descend on Sullivan County today, where both will make this debate flub the focus of the closing hours of the New Hampshire Senate race. Brown has been vindicated, and his apparent victimization by a member of the media, who also just happened to advance a narrative favored by the incumbent, could rally Republicans and center-right independents to Brown’s side. But the GOP candidate’s campaign has a big job ahead of them. The Republican candidate apparently knows New Hampshire geography better than the state’s local news hosts, but Brown will have a bear of a time getting that message out that without the aid of the local news media he embarrassed.