It started out almost predictably: A GOP tracker, armed with a video camera, got in Tea Party candidate Jack Davis's face—and Davis responded by shoving the camcorder away (or, if you believe the Republicans, striking the tracker himself). The Erie County Republican Party posted the video, and it instantly spread like wild through the local media:

Davis and his supporters accused Republicans of pulling a Breitbart—the released clip, as you can see above, was just 15 seconds long and, they argued, selectively chosen as a piece of "theatrical video." Still, it threatened to make the already-irascible Davis look even more unhinged and doom his final week-and-a-half on the campaign trail.

But then, the twist: It turns out the tracker was not, as Erie County GOP chair Nick Langworthy claimed, some random "Young Republican volunteer." He was Mike Mallia, Jane Corwin's Assembly chief-of-staff. Sending your top legislative aide (who presumably shouldn't also be doing campaign work in the first place) to noisily confront one of your opponents seems like a pretty bad move—it draws you directly into the mess and makes people wonder if it was all a setup.

Yet Corwin has now managed to make things immeasurably worse: She tried to deny all involvement. I mean, really?

"It's not my video," Corwin said before a campaign appearance in Lockport Thursday night. "It has nothing to do with me quite frankly."

No, really?

"This was not on Assembly hours. He was acting on his own, it was in the evening and I'm not responsible for what he's doing after hours. Well, like I said, I'm not even going to comment on that because it's up to him to decide how he wants to behave."

This response is just not going to fly, and now Jack Davis has a tailor-made argument that Jane Corwin's campaign, acting at the highest levels, tried to stage a confrontation with him. As the Cook Political Report's Dave Wasserman says, Corwin "risks turning this into a Corwin-Davis food fight"—if it's not one already.

And that couldn't be more perfect for Democrat Kathy Hochul, who I am sure went to bed last night doing a happy dance. Hochul's walking a tightrope whose ends are each held by people she has no control over. To pull this one off, she needs to hope that neither Davis nor Corwin collapse—but if they stay locked in battle with each other, then it's possible they'll drag one another down, or at least stay clenched in tragi-comic mediocrity. All this while Hochul gets the chance to steer clear of the fray and remind voters that she alone is focused on the issues. With ten days left to go, I'm not sure Hochul could have asked for a better gift. Let's just hope it all works out in the end.

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Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Fri May 13, 2011 at 03:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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