Conway criticized by fellow Democrats for ad, but gains in poll - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Conway criticized by fellow Democrats for ad, but gains in poll

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Jack Conway appeared on NBC's Today Show on Oct. 19 Jack Conway appeared on NBC's Today Show on Oct. 19
Jack Conway on Chris Matthews' Hardball Jack Conway on Chris Matthews' Hardball

By Elizabeth Donatelli - bio | email

ELIZABETHTOWN, KY (WAVE) - Democrat Jack Conway is gaining ground and recent polls indicate he has cut the gap between him and Republican Rand Paul in half. Kentucky's race for the U.S. Senate has gained even more national attention after a contentious debate and an attack ad against Paul.

A newly released poll shows Conway trailing now by just five points to Paul's 47 percent. Rasmussen reports that's Conway's best showing since June. In late September, Conway was down 11 percent.

WAVE 3 spoke with Conway just before finding out he was gaining in the polls, and he told us he has no intention of pulling the attack ad, even though The New Republic called it the most "despicable" ad of the campaign season by the liberal publication

Democratic Sen. Clarie McCaskill of Missouri says it came "close to the line" of appropriateness.

Even fellow Kentuckian Rep. John Yarmuth said he wouldn't have done it.

"I wouldn't have taken that risk, but again Jack has a lot of choices and he chose that one and it might work, but I think that it was riskier than the other things he might have used," said Yarmuth.

The campaign ad sponsored by Conway questions Paul's faith by his membership in a secret society in college.

"Why did Rand Paul once tie a woman up, tell her to bow down before a false idol and say his God was Aqua Buddha?" asked the narrator in the Conway approved ad.

Political scientist Jasmine Farrier with the University of Louisville agrees that it's a risky approach, especially for Conway.

"Republicans are more effective at hitting below the belt on personal issues," said Farrier. "Democrats for a variety of reason do not use personal issues as effectively."

Conway was campaigning across the state with former Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia. Before it started, Conway told us he would not pull the ad off the air.

"Absolutely not," said Conway. "We're not backing up one iota. It's going to run its normal course - and listen, it's the truth. He hasn't denied it."

Paul, who is an ophthalmologist, was in surgery all day and unavailable for questions. His campaign did, however, host a conference call with pastors from across the state, who talked about the ad.

"I've never seen anything more disgusting, desperate act of someone that is not reaching out to voters," said Pastor Bill Haynes of Grace Baptist in Somerset, KY.

Despite those feelings, Conway disagreed that it's the worst ad of the campaign season..

"No I don't think it's true," said Conway. "I've got stuff running against time that as they've checked it it's inaccurate. There have been ads pulled from a number of radio stations dealing with meth."

Farrier said Conway could deflect some of the negative attention the ad is brining. Conway defended the ad to Matt Lauer on the TODAY Show and Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball.

"What he needs to do is steer the conversation away from this ad and away from Rand Paul's response ad," said Farrier. "Conway can also turn the tables and make character issues a little bit more relevant."

With just two weeks to go Paul lead the race now moves from Solid Republican to Leans Republican in the Rasmussen Reports Election 2010 Senate Balance of Power rankings.

The margin of error for the Rasmussen Poll is plus or minus 4.5 percent.

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