Charlie Wilson (D)
Toss Up. GOP Air Force veteran Bill Johnson is wisely avoiding Wilson’s two decade-old divorce file, and Wilson’s ex-wife’s detailed accusations of domestic violence are receiving little play back home in the district. Still, this race was extremely tight well before several conservative DC websites decided to air Wilson’s political dirty laundry. New GOP polling shows Wilson behind, and even Democratic polling shows the two-term incumbent in dismal shape, which explains the DCCC’s decision to buy ad time here for the first time last week.
I'm a fan of Cook's work, but I'm unclear on how it's "wise" for Republicans to avoid making voters aware of Charlie Wilson's documented domestic abuse. The local and national press remain utterly silent on the abuse revelation, so the only way district residents might encounter the story is by reading conservative blogs like The Tipsheet, or if the GOP forces it into the open through TV ads and mailers. Wouldn't the discovery that one's (already unpopular) sitting Congressman repeatedly beat his wife during their 27-year marriage have an impact on one's vote?
I've been told one reason Republicans are reluctant to "go there" is a nagging fear of triggering a voter backlash by "dredging up" a personal matter. How exactly would that backlash work, I wonder? "Boy, that Charlie Wilson sure is a creep for grabbing his wife by the neck and slamming her into the refrigerator, but damn those Republicans for telling me about it! That's it, I'm voting for the wife beater."
Think of it this way: If the shoe were on the other foot, and documents surfaced proving that a Republican had abused his ex-wife, I guarantee you the Democrats and their media echo chamber would not only destroy the candidate (deservedly so), but they'd spin the story into a nationwide "misogynistic Republicans" narrative. Hell, we've seen stories about Republicans' supposed "women problem" sprouting up in a campaign cycle with a record number of GOP women on the ballot -- and that's without any abuse allegations.
Maybe I'm a neanderthal for espousing these 'fight fire with fire' tactics, and maybe, as Cook alludes to above, Charlie Wilson will lose purely because of his horrific voting record. But if he hangs on in November (and it's very close), Republicans may come to regret their high minded refusal to take off the gloves.
Parting thought -- Solution: Send in McCain?