Well, yes, it probably will have some effect. But as Jonathan Freedland argues Clegg may survive the press's assault with his dignity and credibility more or less intact. Indeed, the entire episode might have the effect of firming up some support for Clegg. There willl be some voters who see it as proof that the Liberals must be doing something right and others who feel that it will be worth endorsing Clegg just to spite everyone else.
It occurs to me that the Liberal Democrat surge is not quite unprecedented. That is, it can reasonably be compared, in some respects at least, to the SNP's campaign during the Scottish parliamentary elections in 2007. Like this election that was a damn close run thing and then, as seems to be the case now, a good number of voters shrugged off or simply ignored doom-laden predictions and scare-mongering and decided that, damnit, there was nothing in the manual that said you could only vote for the existing Labour-LD partnership.
Consequently the SNP's share of the vote increased by nine points (and by ten on the second, regional vote) - just enough to pip Labour in terms of both vote share and seats.
This despite dire warnings that voting SNP would, literally, mean the end of the country as we've known it for more than 300 years. In the end voters took an "Oh piss off" approach to such warnings, not really believing them and not considering them awfully relevant to the immediate issue at hand: how to get rid of a tired and stale Executive? Agreeing with the Nationalists' actualy policies was a strictly optional exercise.
So too this time around the electoral carousel. Even if the Tories and Labour manage to persuade the public that the Liberal Democrats are just another bunch of Thieving Charlatan Bastards it may be too late since enough voters may take the opportunity to answer, Yeah, but at least they're a different bunch of Thieving Charlatan Bastards and that, with all due thanks to tiny mercies, is enough for now. Not perfect, but enough.
Then again, there's still a long way to go and time enough for everyone to be wrong several more times before this thing is over.