Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell decided two years ago to take a head-on approach to dealing with what she perceived to be a damaging story from her past.
A Tea Party favorite, O'Donnell had defeated the Republican establishment choice, Rep. Mike Castle, in a tough primary race. But questions about her relative qualifications to hold office were amplified when a clip of O'Donnell telling Bill Maher, on ABC's "Politically Incorrect" in 1999, that she once "dabbled into witchcraft" surfaced and went viral.
O'Donnell was concerned that interest in those comments would distract from her conservative bona fides, so she set out to dispell any doubts t in her now infamous "I'm not a witch" video.
"Any regrets in doing the ad?" ABC's Jonathan Karl asked her later. "Because that really did raise it again."
"Yeah," O'Donnell said. "Our intention was to kill it and that's not what happened."
Democrat Chris Coons would go on to defeat O'Donnell by more than 16 points in their race to claim the Senate seat Vice President Joe Biden left behind in 2008.
The same year Biden left the Senate, North Carolina's Kay Hagan was voted in, defeating Republican Elizabeth Dole. An early underdog, Hagan caught her stride and had surpassed Dole in most polls by the end of August. Then, with just more than a week to go before the election, Dole released an ad that suggested, per Politico, that Hagan was "a godless heathen."
The 30-second spot tells of a "secret fundraiser" the Godless Americans PAC held for Hagan, who happens to be a former Sunday school teacher. (Hagan had been at an event, weeks before, which was co-hosted by a member of the PAC's advisory board, but it was no "secret.")
"What did Kay Hagan promise in return?" the narrator asks before a woman's faceless voice says: "There is no God."
The Hagan campaign bit back angrily, denying the bizarre charge and threatening to sue Dole for defamation and libel. By Election Day, the damage was done. Dole's national standing had been damaged and her numbers in North Carolina flat-lined. Hagan won the seat comfortably.
The Obama 2012 campaign has been careful not to get tied in too tight to Reid's attack on Romney. But the campaign appears to have been emboldened by the controversy, relentlessly demanding Romney release more personal financial information.
"Until Romney follows precedent and releases multiple years of tax returns," they said Monday, "the American people can't make their own judgments on his motivations on these critical policy matters."
It's a pursuit that might've fallen flat a week ago, but with Reid's conjecture as a catalyst, the questions become harder to ignore.