Will Bob Etheridge Video Hurt his Re-Election Campaign?

Bob Etheridge (YouTube)

North Carolina Democrat Bob Etheridge apologized yesterday for an incident caught on camera in which he hostilely grabbed a student filming him -- but will he pay for the confrontation at the polls?

Etheridge, as you can see on CBSNews.com's 2010 Election Hot Races Map, is in a potentially competitive race this year, meaning that he has an edge over his opponent -- but there is room for the dynamics of the race to change. Etheridge is a long-time incumbent who's been re-elected fairly comfortably, and President Obama carried this district in 2008.

"We'll keep an eye on whether many of the voters who turned out to help the Democrats in North Carolina in 2008 look like they'll turn out in force again in 2010, which could have an impact on the shape of the race," CBS News Elections Director Anthony Salvanto said.

Republicans, by contrast, are hoping to turn out voters, or least donors, with the video, which gained traction on the Internet yesterday. Etheridge's opponent, Renee Ellmers, is already profiting from the incident, but it's unclear how much it will help her.

The video of Etheridge's confrontation with two self-identified students surfaced yesterday on the conservative website Big Government. Even though Etheridge quickly apologized, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) pounced on the incident, releasing a statement saying, "Bob Etheridge has lost it."

The NRCC reached out to Etheridge's opponent Ellmers on Monday, according to the Charlotte Observer, and she appeared at a news conference with state GOP officials. Yet Ellmers, a nurse and county Chamber of Commerce president, was such a little-known candidate before the video of Etheridge popped up that her name was spelled wrong on the news release for the event, the Observer reports.

CBSNews.com Special Report: Campaign 2010

By Monday afternoon, however, Ellmers was getting donations from hundreds of supporters from California, Wisconsin, Georgia and elsewhere, according to the Observer. She reportedly declined to say how much in donations she received.

Fundraising off of an opponents' gaffe is not always a sufficient way for an underdog to beat an incumbent, Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post writes. Cillizza cites a couple of similar cases, such as the flood of donations Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.)'s opponent received after Wilson shouted, "You lie!" to President Obama during his State of the Union address.

Wilson also was able to fundraise off of the incident -- but the money raised by both sides didn't change the fact that Wilson's district is reliably Republican, Cillizza writes.

Furthermore, Ellmers has a lot of ground to cover in terms of fundraising to catch up with Etheridge financially. Federal Election Commission data shows that, as of mid-April, Ellmers had $5,462 cash on hand while Etheridge had more than $1.1 million.

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