Let me go back through my thinking and explain more carefully the other three reasons I gave for why Kilgore is to blame for his own demise.
1) The death penalty was not a relevant issue in Virginia at any time during this election.
Mr. Lewis argues as though Kilgore’s ads could have made the death penalty would a relevant issue. My point is that this is wrongheaded. Taxes become an issue when they’re too high, and then you advertise on them. Congestion becomes an issue when it takes two hours to get from Falls Church to Rosslyn, and then you advertise on it.
The death penalty just isn’t a big deal that way. We only think about it on rare occasions, and we haven’t had a controversial sentence commutation or a high-profile trip to the gallows any time in recent memory that would make people care. It doesn’t matter that people happen to agree with Kilgore on the death penalty, it just wasn’t important enough to justify a string of massive ad buys — which, by the way, backfired — or even to justify a vote for Kilgore. The issue was probably worth about one line in Kilgore’s stump speech, tops.
2) The ads were just freaking awful.
The ads were produced by Scott Howell? Oh, well, in that case, they must have been terrific. Seriously, though, I only know political advertising, not commercial advertising. This being a family-friendly blog, I cannot use adequate language to describe how bad they were, lest my one-year-old goddaughter read them. Let’s just say that they did not elicit the proper response, and statewide polling of likely voters bears that out:
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Death penalty attack ads Republican Jerry Kilgore televised did his campaign for governor more harm than good, a new statewide poll suggests…One respondent in 10 said the ads made them more likely to support Kilgore while one-fourth said they were less likely to vote for him because of them. Thirty-seven percent said the ads did nothing to change how they would vote and the remaining 28 percent said they had not seen the ads.
So that’s a pretty bad track record.
3) Kaine had the perfect response to it.
Tim Kaine’s response was not "I voted for it, before I voted against it," as Matt writes. His response was, "I’m Catholic and you’re persecuting me." And of course it’s B.S., but it worked great.
Again, though, the strongest argument against Mr. Lewis’s idea that the "Zeitgeist" killed Kilgore is the fact that two real conservatives, Bill Bolling and Bob McDonnell, won their races even as that pretender lost, and each of them got 50,000 or 60,000 more votes than Jerry Kilgore.