Is Aaron Schock Toast in 2016?

A Story with Legs: Assessing the Damage to Illinois’ GOP Rising Star

EDITOR'S NOTE: Ward Room author Brooke Anderson has a unique perspective on Chicago and Illinois politics. She worked as the director of communications for former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who lost a re-election bid to current Gov. Bruce Rauner. Prior to that position, she worked on the 2011 mayoral campaign for Gery Chico, who ran against Rahm Emanuel. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of NBC News.

As you may have noticed with the deluge of stories, U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock’s media beating isn’t over yet. 

After several weeks of crisis that began with his ethically questionable Downton Abbey redesign of his congressional office, the question is fast becoming – will Schock survive this?
While real damage has been done, the jury’s still out on that.
For one, Schock has a strong base of support. He won his most recent four elections handily, garnering 74 percent of the vote in the last two. He represents a  safe Republican district where the GOP has an 11-point advantage in the electorate, according to the Cook Partisan Voting Index. He hasn’t been accused of any crimes and so far, local Republican leaders are sticking with him.
On the flip side, Schock has so far struggled to break out of the daily rapid response mode. Yesterday, it surfaced that he used taxpayer money to fly to a Bears game- hours later, he repaid the treasury for the funds.
How can he begin to rebuild and refocus when he hasn’t bottomed out yet?
The Chicago Tribune recently noted that Schock’s office refused to answer questions about his travel that would shed more light on whether he followed the rules. Those questions aren’t going away anytime soon.
But perhaps the most serious threat is not the ongoing barrage of questions and stories but the fact that there’s already enough material for blistering campaign ads.
And while a Democratic victor in the 18th congressional district is highly unlikely, Schock’s spate of made-for-TV blunders could leave him vulnerable to a Republican primary challenge. (Just ask former House Minority Whip Eric Cantor about pesky challengers who take on powerful incumbents.)
The ads write themselves:
“Aaron Schock spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on luxury, private jets so he could travel the world…
"and decorate his government office like Downton Abbey...
“Now he's under investigation for ethics violations…
“When asked to explain himself, all Aaron Schock could say was: “Haters gonna hate”…
“Aaron Schock – out of touch and out for himself.”
Schock has taken some steps to resolve this crisis, commissioning his own investigation, hiring two communication consultants and – finally – putting an end to his lavish travel.
But this story has legs (and abs). And now there’s an opening from the right.
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