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Blog Buzz: Conway in hot aqua with some liberals

Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Jack Conway's attack ad, which uses Republican opponent Rand Paul's college-age "Aqua Buddha" incident to question his faith, sparked a debate among liberal bloggers over whether the ad's implications - that Paul holds a disdain for Christianity left over from his youth - are a legitimate political attack or hit below the belt on issues that should be irrelevant to a Democratic candidate.

The blog of the left-leaning New Republic featured a post by Jonathan Chait, who wrote that the ad is the "ugliest, most illiberal political ad of the year."

"I actually don't doubt the implication of the ad, namely that Rand Paul harbors a private contempt for Christianity. He's a devotee of Ayn Rand, who is a fundamentally anti-Christian thinker. And much of Paul's history, which he is frantically covering up in an attempt to pass himself off as a typical Republican, suggests among other things a deep skepticism about religion.

"The trouble with Conway's ad is that it comes perilously close to saying that non-belief in Christianity is a disqualification for public office. That's a pretty sickening premise for a Democratic campaign."

Washington Monthly's liberal blogger Steve Benen also seemed to think that the attacking of a Republican candidate's religious beliefs was not in keeping with the Democratic ethos, suggesting that the ad is a desperate attempt to get a lead on Paul in the polls.

"I have no idea whether something like this will be effective. Kentucky's cultural conservatism and strong evangelical majority may respond well to the message, and reinforce fears about Paul's personal oddities. (The point is spelled out plainly in the ad's conclusion: "Why are there so many questions about Rand Paul?")

"Still, I much preferred when Democrats didn't attack rival candidates over their religious beliefs."

Balloon Juice's Doug J seemed to think the ad missed its purpose completely.

"I have to admit, this anti-Rand Paul ad kind of makes me want to vote for the guy. Got to be the funniest ad I’ve ever seen, though I don’t think that’s intentional. But what do I know about Kentucky politics?"

Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, the founder of Daily Kos, wrote on his blog that the ad was fair game, as a candidate's personal beliefs were as relevant to their political credentials as their policy stances.

"I can see why Chait and other progressives might be a bit upset, as the ad attacks Rand Paul for his irreligious beliefs.

"Personally, I see nothing wrong with it. Voters are less concerned with issues than values when casting their ballots, and for many voters, religion speaks to the candidate's values. I may not like it, but it's a democracy, and the notion that the source of a candidate's values are off-limits is patently absurd.

"Sure, that means that as an atheist I would never get elected in Mississippi or Alabama or Kentucky, but so what? No one has a right to electoral office, and in a democracy, you have to sell yourself to the voters. In many places, religion is part of the package."