Friday, November 04, 2005

Will Kilgore get "Howelled" on Tuesday?

Back in mid-October, MR JMS posted a thread regarding the death penalty ads crafted for the Kilgore campaign by Scott Howell. At the time, there was some discussion on this blog and others as to the impact that the ads, particularly the "Stanley" ad, would have on viewers/voters. While I am an ardent supporter of the death penalty in Virginia, I found the ads to be tasteless and unnecessarily provocative. And, I predicted that they would result in a backlash against Kilgore. So, what do the polls say? During the last week, new polls have been conducted and published by Rasmussen, Mason-Dixon and the Washington Post. These polls all show Kaine inching ahead in the race, with swings of 1, 3, and 10 points respectively as compared to previous polls. Interestingly, the analysis of each new poll included specific remarks concerning the death penalty ads: Rasmussen: "However, the Kilgore commercials on the death penalty may not have helped his campaign. Eighty-two percent (82%) of Likely Voters say they saw the commercial. Of those who did, 26% said it made them more likely to vote for Kilgore while 36% said they were more likely to vote for Kaine because of the ad." Mason-Dixon: "The most controversial -- a Kilgore spot suggesting Kaine, a death penalty foe, would not have executed Adolf Hitler -- may have backfired for Kilgore, turning off one in four voters, according to the previous Times-Dispatch Poll." Washington Post: "The new poll shows that most voters agree with Kilgore's support for the death penalty. Even so, voters overwhelmingly say the ads were unfair, and they blame Kilgore for launching mean-spirited attacks. Two-thirds say Kilgore has conducted a negative campaign, and 55 percent believe Kilgore would "say anything" to get elected." Additionally, an article in the USA Today says: "The race remained essentially tied after the death penalty ads. And two polls found that among people who had seen them, more were likely to vote against Kilgore than for him. " The changes in the polls in Kaine's direction are undoubtedly due to a number of factors. But, based on the evidence, I'm forced to conclude that the ads will ultimately result in a net loss in votes for Kilgore. The fact is that the death penalty has not polled as an issue of high importance and, combined with the negativity with which the ads were received, this ad campaign appears to have been a fairly poor investment. In an election this close, creating your own negatives, particularly with moderate and independent voters, is a losing proposition. So, if Kilgore loses by a point or two, can we add "Howelled" to our political lexcion?

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