Political Analysts Weigh In On DesJarlais Scandal - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Political Analysts Weigh In On DesJarlais Scandal

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by Heather Graf

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - With less than a month to go before voters head to the polls, a congressman from Middle Tennessee finds himself surrounded by scandal.  Still, is it enough to cost Representative Scott DesJarlais the election?

We took that question to NewsChannel 5 political analyst Pat Nolan.

Transcripts of a phone call released on Wednesday reportedly show DesJarlais urging his former mistress to get an abortion, despite the fact that he's long claimed to be pro-life.

"This will be in the news for at least a couple days," said Nolan.  "But it may take longer than that for it to really sink in and for people to understand it."

Nolan says the big question, right now, is how Democratic challenger Eric Stewart handles this newly released information.

"Is he going to have the resources and the time to exploit this and make it a big issue?" said Nolan. "I think at this point he's pretty under funded, so getting the word out both for his campaign in general and for this in particular, might be difficult this late."

Timing and money, he says, are key when it comes to candidates coping with controversy.

"This coming out so late, it does give DesJarlais the ability to say 'this is last minute dirty tricks'," said Nolan. 

At a campaign event on Wednesday, Stewart told constituents this is proof is going against his own political platform.  He also said his opponent his unfit for office.

"Congressman DesJarlais has proven over and over that he can't be trusted, and the latest revelation is disgusting and also disqualifying," Stewart said.

While it could be too late to make a difference on election day, politics are full of the unpredictable.

"You never say never," said Nolan. "In the presidential race we call this the October surprise, but we'll see how this works in this particular race."

The DesJarlais campaign didn't respond to our requests for a comment, but when asked by the Huffington Post - a spokesperson didn't deny the report.

Instead, he issued this statement:

"This is old news from the last election cycle that Tennesseans have already widely rejected. Desperate personal attacks do not solve our nation's problems, yet it appears that there are those who choose to continue to engage in the same gutter politics that were characterized by national media as the nastiest in the nation just two years ago."

Documents alleging violent behavior during DesJarlais' divorce were released during his 2010 campaign, but DesJarlais went on to beat then-incumbent Lincoln Davis.

Email: hgraf@newschannel5.com

(The Associated Press Contributed To This Report.)

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