Democrat Jack Conway's aggressive television ad raising questions about opponent Rand Paul's religious faith could hurt Conway more than it helps him at a crucial time in the U.S. Senate race, political observers said Monday.
The 30-second ad refers to Paul's membership in a secret society at Baylor University that mocked Christianity in satirical articles and was banned from the Baptist-affiliated school for being sacrilegious.
It also mentions another college incident in which a woman said Paul, as part of an ill-conceived prank, tried to get her to smoke pot, then took her to a creek outside town, told her he worshiped "Aqua Buddha," and made her bow down.
There are potential pluses for Conway in the ad, observers said, including that it could cause questions about Paul in this conservative state where religion is important to many people. It also could reinforce arguments that Paul and his views are extreme.
But observers said the ad and resulting fallout could cost Conway more than he gains.
"It's a real roll of the dice," said Stuart Rothenberg, publisher of The Rothenberg Political Report.
Among the potential pitfalls is that many people will perceive the ad as too personal or even desperate — not how a candidate wants to appear with less than two weeks until Election Day, observers said.
Many people don't see questioning a candidate's religious faith as appropriate, said Stephen Voss, a political science professor at the University of Kentucky.
"It could bounce back and burn him," Voss said. "I expect Conway is going to regret having this go out under his name."
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