On Wednesday morning, it looked as though Gordon Brown might have stalled Cleggmania, inching back into second place in some polls. But then he met Gillian Duffy.
Duffy, a senior citizen and lifelong Labour supporter, bumped into Brown as the prime minister was leaving a meet-and-greet in the town of Rochdale. Duffy told him she was almost ashamed to say she was a Labour voter, and while she would vote for Brown, she had concerns about the national debt, taxes, and immigration. The exchange ended amicably, with Duffy wishing Brown good luck as he climbed into his car. But the prime minister forgot he was wired for sound and lashed out at his aides for allowing Duffy to speak with him. Brown branded the exchange a disaster and called Duffy a "bigoted woman" as his car was leaving the scene.
Here's video of the entire event:
The media then rushed to get reaction from grandmotherly Duffy, who was visibly shaken and said she was "disgusted." Duffy says she already completed a mail-in ballot, selecting Brown as her choice for prime minister, yet she now says she will not put her ballot in the mail.
Things only got worse for Brown, who was confronted with his comments in a BBC Radio interview. Apparently not realizing he was being filmed, Brown was visibly distraught and sunk his head into his hands while listening to the tape. From there, he was taken back to Duffy's home in Rochdale, where he spent 40 minutes in apologetic penance.
It remains to be seen how this will affect the polls. The Conservatives could get a bounce based on their immigration position, but the Liberal Democrats could gain the most if elements of Labour's left-wing base rebel in disgust. Some voters on the street are saying this won't affect their vote, but Wednesday's YouGov tracking poll seems to show that it did matter and that the Liberal Democrats have once again taken solid hold of second place (and that poll wasn't even taken entirely after the gaffe). If Duffy comes up in tonight's debate, Gordon Brown's unforgettable remarks might be the deciding factor in the election.