From NBC's Mark Murray, Bobby Cervantes, and Ali Weinberg
As Virginia's gubernatorial contest has tightened, according to a new Washington Post poll, the Deeds campaign (D) -- for the first time -- is airing a new TV ad explicitly targeting Bob McDonnell's (R) controversial graduate thesis. It's one of three new advertisements the campaign is running in markets across the state, including pivotal Northern Virginia.
"Virginians are asking lots of questions about Bob McDonnell's thesis," a narrator says in the ad. "How old was he when he wrote it? McDonnell was 34, married." It also refers to the school where McDonnell wrote the thesis, what is now known as Regent University, as "Pat Robertson's law school."
The ad continues, "And what did the thesis say about women? A lot ... abortion should be outlawed and birth control should be restricted -- even for married adults."
Another Deeds TV ad focuses more on his record (on abortion and birth control), with women speaking to the camera. One asks, "Why did you vote that way?"
In a conference call with reporters, Deeds senior adviser Mo Elleithee noted that more than half of Virginia voters -- 54% -- have heard little or nothing about McDonnell's thesis. "I think that puts us in a very strong position," he said. "There's still a lot of education to do. Among those who are educated on the issue, there's significant movement."
Elleithee added, "More and more people are finding Bob McDonnell too conservative," and that McDonnell has "done everything in his power to hide… his conservative agenda. His efforts to appear moderate are falling flat."