Dole Ad Portraying Hagan as 'Godless' Creates Backlash in N.C.
North Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Kay Hagan filed notice Thursday of her intent to sue Republican incumbent Sen. Elizabeth Dole over a controversial ad that shows a photo of Hagan with another women's voice saying "There is no God."
Hagan said the statements in the ad, which links her with a group of atheists who held a fundraiser for Hagan and want to remove references to God from the public arena, are false and defamatory.
Hagan called for the ad to be pulled, but Dole's campaign has said the ad was fair, especially because Hagan has attacked Dole for being "in the pocket of big oil" because of some of her contributors' ties to energy companies.
Hagan responded with her own ad calling Dole's attack offensive and defending her faith, including the fact that she taught Sunday school.
The back and forth shots over the ad have ratcheted up the heat in an already close race. In an Associated Press-Gfk poll released Wednesday, Hagan was slightly ahead of Dole, with 47 percent support to Dole's 43 percent.
Two of the state's three major papers, the Charlotte Observer and the Greensboro News & Record, both took issue with Dole's ad tactics and the Observer said it could be a reflection of the campaign slipping.
"This is indecent. It is the modern-day version of the 'white hands' ad, a lie born of Dole's desperation in a race in which she has trailed for weeks," said the Charlotte Observer in an editorial.
"It has no place in N.C. politics. Unless she admits this egregious, shameful mistake and acts appropriately, Elizabeth Dole has no place in N.C. politics, either."
The Observer was referring to a 1990 Sen. Jesse Helms ad that blamed the failure of a white person to get a job on a minority and racial quotas. He defeated Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt in that race.
The Greensboro News & Record editorial also expressed disapproval, though left Dole a chance to redeem herself by pulling the ad.
"Even in a campaign long ago driven down in tone by Democrats and Republicans, this is a low blow. Making false insinuations about a candidate's religious beliefs is beyond the bounds of acceptable political disagreement," the paper said.
Tom Baxter, editor of the Southern Political Report wrote on washingtonpost.com that many in North Carolina don't think Dole can make up the ground she has lost in the campaign before next Tuesday.
"The latest Public Policy Polling survey has that race tightening up -- one of several polls around the South which suggest Republican voters may be coming back in the closing days," Baxter wrote. "But Dole is still is serious trouble, and a lot of Republicans I've talked with in North Carolina don't think she'll make it."