Revelations that Republican state House candidate Melissa Howard may flown to Ohio for a picture with a fake college degree quickly turned her from a strong political contender to the subject of national ridicule on Saturday

But amid guffaws at the audacity of this alleged deception, party leaders quietly wonder, what if Howard still wins her election?

Before a scandal erupted about whether she falsified a degree from Miami University, sources close to Howard’s campaign say she held a 20-point lead in the Republican primary over Sarasota attorney Tommy Gregory.

That may be generous, but Howard is the Manatee County candidate and about three quarters of House District 73 candidates reside; Gregory lives with the bottom quartile in Sarasota County. She’s chapter president of the Gulf Coast Republican Women Federated; he’s a political neophyte (though one with a National Rifle Association endorsement).

Of course, the calculus of this race surely changed when Miami University general counsel Robin Parker insinuated Howard lied about graduating from the university and cast doubt on a picture of the candidate’s degree, apparently taken during a special trip by Howard to Ohio for the purpose of clearing her name.

Since then,

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