Will "Macaca" Wreck George Allen's Presidential Quest?

Compared to the ridiculous overkillat The Washington Post, The New York Times has shown self-control regarding the flap involving Virginia Sen. George Allen being caught on tape insulting a Democratic campaign worker ("macaca"-gate). But on Thursday, congressional reporter Carl Hulse used Allen's public apology to leap in to the fray, suggesting Allen's presidential aspirations have taken a hit.

The text box to Thursday's "Senator Apologizes to Student for Remark"reads: "A perceived racial slur raises questions about a candidate's chances for a presidential bid."

"Senator George Allen of Virginia personally apologized to a volunteer for his opponent's campaign on Wednesday for a perceived racial insult, addressing a misstep that has complicated his re-election campaign and raised doubts about his potential as a Republican presidential contender in 2008."

Hulse admits that after all the brouhaha, no one has really nailed down what Allen meant when heused the M-word: "The word has been interpreted in various ways and is considered a slur in some parts of the world. Mr. Sidarth said he took offense at what he judged to be a mean-spirited remark tied to his skin color. He said Mr. Allen said that he had waited to apologize because he thought he would encounter Mr. Sidarth on the campaign trail, but that they had not crossed paths.

Still Hulse knows it must have been something bad: "The initial comment, at an appearance in southwestern Virginia, shed an unflattering light on Mr. Allen in a re-election contest that was supposed to be a warm-up for a bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Analysts and political operatives agree that the incident has provided an opening for Mr. Allen's Democratic opponent, James Webb, a former Navy secretary who remains a long shot."

Hulse digs up stands made by Allen back when he served in the Virginia House of Delegates, during the Reagan era: "Yet even some Republicans say it could intrude on Mr. Allen's presidential aspirations, when he would have to appeal to a much wider audience. And the macaca gaffe could play into an earlier history that has raised the suggestion of racial insensitivity through Mr. Allen's 1984 opposition to a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday as well as an affinity for the Confederate battle flag. In the Senate, Mr. Allen has sought to correct that image through support for historically black colleges and a call for an official apology for the Senate's failure to enact antilynching laws."