Cal Cunningham’s bad month just went from bad to much worse.
As we reported earlier, his campaign bailed out of a scheduled town hall Monday, after reports surfaced that same day of an alleged second mistress in addition to the one he confirmed a “sexting” relationship with last Friday.
While the claim about the second (allegedly longtime) mistress has yet to be confirmed, the Associated Press is reporting tonight that the “sexting” relationship he admitted to last week actually went way beyond sexting — all the way up to an intimate encounter his mistress Arlene Guzman Todd says took place at his home in July:
Previously undisclosed text messages obtained by The Associated Press and additional interviews show that the relationship extended beyond suggestive texts to an intimate encounter as recently as July.
The text messages were not obtained from Guzman Todd. But the AP contacted her to confirm their authenticity. In a series of interviews late Monday as well as in the text messages, Guzman Todd described two in-person encounters with Cunningham, one in March in Los Angeles that she said did not include intimate contact and a second in July in North Carolina, where she said they were intimate.
In the text messages to her friend, Guzman Todd told her she was intimate with Cunningham in his home, which she later characterized as “weird.”
They noted that Guzman Todd told the friend at some point later that she was frustrated the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Thom Tillis was not giving her enough attention.
“I’m just going to send to his opponent his naked photos,” Guzman Todd said in a text, according to the AP. “That will teach him.”
In other text messages, she told Cunningham, “you don’t deserve me” and in another, she said Cunningham knew she could “tank his campaign.”
Raleigh-based WRAL’s story included a text from Guzman Todd in which she said “I just want to [expletive] him one last time and break his heart.”
Though the AP surprisingly gave this story the due diligence it deserves, in reading it I could almost hear the teeth-grinding from the reporters who covered it. Sprinkled throughout the piece were references to both the fact that it was a “consensual relationship” (as if that somehow makes it okay), and the fact that President Trump carried NC in 2016 despite reports of an alleged affair (which they didn’t couch as “alleged”).
The problem with them playing “whataboutism” here between Cunningham and Trump here is that Trump’s campaign was nothing like Cunningham’s.
Though Trump denied the affair, he presented himself during his campaign as a “what you see is what you get, warts and all” type, as a scrapper who got things done and wasn’t afraid to get in the mud to do it. That message appealed here to Republican voters and conservative Democrats who felt like they’d been forgotten by both sides over the years. Voters knew what they were getting when they voted for him.
On the other hand, Cunningham has run this Andy Griffith “family guy, character matters, man of my word” campaign that even the AP acknowledges works well with voters here. But in the blink of an eye, middle of the road voters who could go either way have found out in recent days that the “family man” who told them they could trust him, well, can’t.
The fallout here in North Carolina has already started, with the liberally-biased Charlotte Observer editorial board demanding Cunningham explain himself:
“There’s a concern that Cunningham — an Army reservist who talks regularly about honor, a husband who leverages his marriage as a campaign asset — may not be the person he says he is.” https://t.co/YNs0DCcYvB
— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) October 6, 2020
Tillis, too, is continuing to ding Cunningham, calling for a “full explanation”:
Cal Cunningham has said, "In North Carolina, the truth still matters." I agree. He owes North Carolinians a full explanation. pic.twitter.com/N8bD2I7zUT
— Thom Tillis (@ThomTillis) October 6, 2020
The race between Tillis and Cunningham is one of the most-watched in the country among political observers, as Democrats hope to regain control of the Senate. While Cunningham has led in most polls to date, his continued silence outside of his brief Friday statement on the almost-daily revelations about conduct unbecoming a Senate nominee is not likely to play well here.
There’s no doubt the tide has changed in this race. How much this hurts the campaign of Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s hand-picked candidate, however, remains to be seen.
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