Marty Ryall, who ran Republican Elizabeth Dole's Senate campaign last year, confirms what many people suspected about the so-called Godless ad — that it was a desperation move by a campaign that knew it was losing.
Ryall writes about the ad in a cover story for Politics magazine. The headline: "Our Hail Mary Pass, Why we ran the Godless ad and what I'd do differently."
The ad that ran in the final days was the most controversial of the campaign. It sought to tie Democrat Kay Hagan to a group of atheists who want to remove references to God from the public arena. It showed Hagan's photo while a woman's voice said "There is no God."
"Many in the media, especially on the liberal side, were quick to point to the ad and claim it backfired, costing Dole the election," Ryall writes. "Nothing could be further from the truth. When a football team is trailing by 7 points and throws a “Hail Mary” on the last play of the game, they don't lose because they failed to complete the play, they lose because they were down 7 points and time was running out."
Ryall recites the campaign's problems. It burned through too much money early and then faced an onslaught from outside groups. In addition, there were Dole's weaknesses, including her effectiveness rating, the time she spent outside North Carolina and, of course, the Obama turnout effort.
In the final week, he says, Dole was on "a losing trajectory" and had to do something with "shock value." The only thing he would have done ifferently about the Godless ad was to cut the "There is no God" quote at the end since it gave Hagan a ready line of attack.
"So, in the end, the 'Godless' ad had little impact on the election. The Obama campaign's decision to target North Carolina and turn out the Democrat vote was far more damaging. … I would argue that had we run the ad sooner, and without the voice at the end, it would have been closer. However, that is all hindsight. The risk was huge and not worth taking until it was evident we could not win without it, and that was not clear until about 10 days out. Had the ad run about 20 days out, it may have made it closer, but the data we had at that time did not warrant taking such a large gamble."