Do gaffes exist in politics anymore? Can an imprudent comment still sink a campaign?
Or did grab-them-by-the-you-know-what President Trump vaporize the very concept of gaffes?
Clout has been asking itself that question since a candidates' forum Wednesday among Democrats running in Pennsylvania's Fifth Congressional District.
A moderator at the event, hosted by the liberal activist group Indivisible Main Line South, asked the men in the race a pointed question: Why, in the Year of the Woman, should voters consider a male candidate?
George Badey, a Delaware County lawyer and longtime spokesman for the Mummers, gave an answer that raised some eyebrows.
Richard Lazer is an ally of the city's politically powerful building trades, and some Delaware County Democrats are worried he'll smash their dream of putting a Delco resident in Congress. The vast majority of the Fifth District is in Delaware County, but it includes a sliver of South Philly, where Lazer lives. Political observers think Lazer may be able to win if he captures the majority of the city's ballots at the same time that the suburban vote is fractured among the race's numerous Delco candidates.
Badey said he can prevent that from happening by taking South Philly votes from Lazer: "I grew up there. I was a Democratic committee person there. I know South Philly."
Then Badey crammed his foot into his mouth: "I'm the only one that can win. So your choice, it's a false choice. I don't think a woman can win this primary. It's either going to be the guy from South Philly or me."
Badey said afterward that he meant he is the only candidate — male or female — who can beat Lazer. "Not because of my gender," he said, "but because of my background and history." If the Philadelphia political machine threw its weight behind a woman candidate from Philly, she would get lots of city votes too, he said.
He added that there are "several really strong, excellent female candidates running," and that he is a "strong advocate for women's issues."
Not everyone was satisfied with Badey's explanation.
"I just don't think that's an acceptable thing to say as a candidate," said David Landau, leader of Delaware County's Democratic Party. "There are a number of extraordinary women running for office in the Fifth Congressional District, and any one of them will win if they're a nominee in the fall."
Shelly Chauncey, a former CIA officer, is one of the six Democratic women running against Badey and Lazer.
"I see the argument that he's trying to make. I just don't buy it," she said. "I plan on showing George and any other man that a woman can do this."
Badey is one of the six primary candidates (out of 14) recommended Monday for the seat by the Delaware County Democratic Party. The county's committee people will vote on an endorsement next month.
When Pennsylvania Republican Ryan Costello announced in the eleventh hour that he would not run for reelection to Congress, the GOP's chances of keeping his seat took a nosedive.
Not that they were very rosy to begin with. Costello was facing what many political insiders believed was among the toughest campaigns in the country for a Republican incumbent. Hillary Clinton won his Chester County-based district, which became even bluer when the state Supreme Court imposed a new congressional district map last month. Even the head honcho of the National Republican Congressional Committee said Costello's Democratic challenger, Chrissy Houlahan, is formidable.
Costello's last-minute decision to drop out of the race irked some Republicans, particularly since he made the decision after the deadline passed for other candidates to submit paperwork to get on the ballot. Only one Republican will be on the ticket this spring: attorney Greg McCauley Sr.
Rumor is that Chester County GOP leaders discussed this week the possibility of recruiting another Republican to run a write-in campaign: businesswoman and lifelong Coatesville resident Amber Little-Turner.
Chester County and Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Val DiGiorgio said he did not enlist Little-Turner to throw her hat in the ring: "I'm just making sure the committee understands all their options."
Little-Turner said she is not thinking about running for Congress "as of right now." She is campaigning for the state House.
Alan Novak, a former state GOP chairman who lives in Chester County, said Little-Turner was one of the names "in the mix" when local leaders were previously considering what to do in the event that Costello retired, though he wasn't aware of any push for a write-in campaign.
She has the inside track on the party nomination for state representative, so turning away from that for a long-shot write-in campaign could be difficult, Novak said. "She's got a tough decision to make."
Little-Turner has been involved in the county party and was recommended for the 74th District state seat by its outgoing representative, Harry Lewis, Novak said.
"I'm a big fan of hers," he said. But he and former U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach, also of Chester County, said write-in campaigns are difficult to pull off.
"It's rarely done," Gerlach said. "There'd have to be a coordinated effort to do that."
McCauley did not respond to a request for comment.
Charlie Gerow, a GOP political consultant talking to McCauley about potentially joining his team, said, "My understanding is they just simply didn't have any substantive support to challenge [McCauley] with a write-in campaign."
He added that McCauley "has to do in six weeks what many candidates would do in six months, so he has to hit the ground running."
All while fending off attempts within his own party to sabotage him, apparently.