I just met with Renee Ellmers, the Republican challenger to Rep. Bob “Who are you? Who are you?” Etheridge, North Carolina Democrat.
She notes that for all of the attention on the infamous video of Etheridge getting physical with a young man questioning him, she thinks the bigger turning point in the race was the passage of Obamacare, a vote that crystallized the difference between Etheridge’s conservative, good-ol’-boy persona in the district and his reliable loyalty to an increasingly liberal House Democratic leadership. On the video, the importance “is less the incident than the theme” of the arrogance of power, she said. (Having said that, every time a Democrat has an off-key or worse moment with a constituent, like Pete Stark or Ciro Rodriguez, she noted the Etheridge video gets played again, and helps her campaign a bit more.)
Despite being an R+2 district, this race has not, until very recently, been on most observers’ lists of competitive races, which Ellmers attributes to the incumbent’s recent healthy margins of victory. No polling has been conducted since one a week after the video, showing Ellmers up by a single point.
She noted that a lot of the recent non-economic issues have fed into voters’ anxiety about the economy — the health-care bill will make employees more expensive, illegal immigration exacerbates concerns of low-income workers, farmers and businesses worry about the impact of cap-and-trade on their energy costs, and the reaction to the oil spill shakes the public’s faith that the government can respond to crises with any sense of urgency. She calls the Department of Justice’s lawsuit against the state of Arizona for its immigration law “ridiculous” and charges that it wastes taxpayer money twice over, wasting federal taxpayers’ money for the DOJ suit and Arizona residents’ tax dollars to defend it.
Ellmers is a pro-gun concealed-carry holder who hoping the NRA will take a more active role against Etheridge, who is rated “F” by the organization.
Also, I was able to ask her, while recording her on video, whether she fully supports the Obama agenda. No neck holds, grappling, or “hugs” ensued.