COOPER PUTS THE CRAZY ON FULL DISPLAY (AGAIN)…. There have been more than a few offensive attack ads this year, but right-wing congressional candidate Renee Ellmers took the discourse to new depths last week. In a television ad, the North Carolina Republican pushed the detestable envelope, using the words “Muslims” and “terrorists” interchangeably, while apparently basing her campaign on a Park51 plan nowhere near her state or district.

On Friday, CNN’s Anderson Cooper invited Ellmers on for a nine-minute interview, which is well worth watching. (If you can’t watch videos from your work computer, the full transcript is online, though it really doesn’t do it justice.)

It was a reminder that unintelligent, extremist candidates, when subjected to even mild scrutiny, tend to fall apart pretty quickly. On Friday night, for example, Ellmers suggests Feisal Abdul Rauf might be a terrorist, before conceding she doesn’t really know much about him.

Challenging Ellmers’ notion of “victory mosques,” Cooper went on to press the Republican congressional hopeful on an interesting point: “Don’t all religions do that? I mean, you’re Catholic. Rome was conquered from the pagans and their altars destroyed so the Vatican could be built. Christian conquistadors and pilgrims to America all destroyed local religions and built their own houses of worship. Is the Vatican a victory church?”

After hemming and hawing a bit, she replied, “I guess what I could ask you is, are you anti-religion? Are you anti-Christian in your thinking?”

Cooper replied, “That’s like the lowest response I have ever heard from a candidate, I have got to tell you.”

It’s worth noting that Cooper may be creating a bit of a niche for himself. A month ago, he pressed Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) on his bizarre “terrorist babies” theory, and to his credit, Cooper kept his cool, tried to conduct a serious interview, and challenged the deranged congressman in a direct but professional way, leaving his guest looking like a fool. He did the same thing on Friday with the equally-nutty Renee Ellmers, with the same result. (The niche may not last — I can only assume more ridiculous Republicans will simply stop appearing on Cooper’s show, and rely exclusively on Fox News.)

What’s more, Paul Waldman raises a good point about the larger political context of Ellmers possibly joining the House of Representatives: “One might say, well, this one person seems to be a bigot and an ignoramus, but so what? She’s just one person. That’s true, but if things work out for the GOP, she could be one of the people making our laws. Whether the Democrats hold on to their majority in the House, one thing we can be almost certain of is that the number of members who combine breathtaking ignorance with shockingly radical views will increase significantly. How much damage this army of Gohmerts and Bachmanns can really do, we don’t know. But there will be a lot more of them.”

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.