"Aqua Buddha" is rearing its head once again. Kentucky Democratic candidate Jack Conway has aired one of the "ugliest" ads of the campaign season, alluding to Aqua Buddha to insinuate that his opponent, Rand Paul, is anti-Christian. The thirty-second spot pushed Paul to angrily retort in a debate, "You're going to stand there and accuse me of a crime from 30 years ago from some anonymous source? How ridiculous are you? You embarrass this race." Paul quickly produced his own ad, which touted his faith background (he "keeps Christ in his heart") and accused Conway of "bearing false witness" just to win an election. The pointed rhetoric, which is calibrated to appeal to Kentucky's evangelical demographic, seems to be damaging both candidates.
Rand's Response to the Anti-Christian Charge Misses the Point writes The New Republic's Jonathan Chait. "The data points cited by Conway are true; what's gross is the insinuation that if you're not Christian there's something wrong with you. Paul, predictably, has chosen to attack the facts of Conway's charge rather than the insinuation. Thus we have a debate between a purveyor of religious bigotry and a liar."
- Jack Conway 'Embarrasses' Himself With This Type of Demagoguery observes The Washington Post's Ezra Klein. Having said that, "you do wonder if being on the wrong side of the dominant majority might sensitize Rand Paul to the need for things like the Civil Rights Act. A mean ad about your anti-Christian college pranks isn't comparable, of course, to being the target of a state-sponsored campaign of terror and discrimination against you and everyone who looks like you. But the emotions that Conway is playing on here are the same that, in an amplified and legally unchecked environment, can lead to the persecution of those who don't find themselves comfortably within the majority's definition of itself."
- Conway May Have Gone Too Far ventures Greg Sargent at The Washington Post. "Regardless of the veracity of either/both of the charges, the ad amounts to a major gamble for Conway. Down only a handful of points in most public polling, it now seems clear that this ad could make or break the race -- forcing voters to decide whether Paul's college transgressions are fair game in the context of a political race or whether Conway went too far and, in so doing, made himself look like a desperate candidate looking for a Hail Mary political pass. Recent political history provides a mixed bag when seeking to assess which way this Conway ad will play with voters."
- It's All About Evangelical Voters The Guardian's Michael Tomasky hedges that those who care the most about Rand's college actions may be "core evangelical Christian voters." He then guesses that Conway's strategy is "to dampen enthusiasm for Paul among this cohort, thus decreasing their turnout by 2% or something." Tomasky relays "there aren't many more lines of taste and decorum left to be crossed. It's taking a lot of the fun out of politics. Yes, politics was once fun. Dirty, corrupt, et cetera, but also fun in its way. Now the hatred is at defcon 4 every day. Depressing really."
- This Isn't The First Time Paul Has Fought Back Hard Against An Ad The Atlantic's Chris Good recalls that "during the Republican primary, Lt. Gov. Trey Grayson hit Paul with a TV ad that showed him loosely paraphrasing his father's foreign-policy views that 9/11 was caused, in part, by blowback from misguided U.S. foreign policies. Paul publicly called for an apology and hit back at Grayson in which he said, straight to camera, 'Trey Grayson, your shameful TV ad is a lie, and it dishonors you.'"
- 'They Are Both Fools, or the Electorate Is' argues Rabbi Brad Hirschfield at Beliefnet. If the debate's "sermonizing 'works' i.e. persuades voters in one direction or the other, then shame on the voters. Hopefully though, it's the candidates who miscalculated and each of their offices will receive messages from their respective supporters, telling the two candidates to get to work....if the best they can do is use God and religion to shame and embarrass each other, then it may not matter who wins, since they are both losers."