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Ad Watch: 'Why Did You?'

Anne Bartlett

Democratic candidate for governor R. Creigh Deeds unveiled two new ads this week hitting Republican Robert F. McDonnell over issues related to McDonnell's 1989 master's thesis. One is entitled "Why Did You?"


Woman: Bob McDonnell, we know what you wrote about working women ...

Woman: ... and we've seen all your ads and heard your excuses.

Woman: But your RECORD troubles me.

Woman: ... 35 bills restricting a woman's choice

Woman: And you opposed birth control for married adults.

Woman: Mr. McDonnell: We've read your words ...

Woman: We've checked your record.

Woman: Why did you vote that way?


Each line is spoken sternly by a different woman, looking straight into the camera. They are diverse in age and race and are featured in different settings--one in what looks like an office, another in front of a house. The Deeds campaign says the women are Virginia residents--not actors. They include Phyllis Randall, who ran for supervisor as a Democrat in Loudoun, and party activist Chrisi West. The campaign refused to release a full list.

Keep reading for an analysuis


This is an ad designed to directly appeal to women, particularly in Northern Virginia. The goal is to push beyond discussion of the thesis itself--the ad seems to assume its viewers have already heard about McDonnell's academic work, in which he called working women and feminists "detrimental" to the family.

The campaign believes the key to using the thesis to win voters is to convince them that the paper formed a blueprint for McDonnell's subsequent record in public life--14 years in the House of Delegates followed by three years as attorney general. Hence the "why did you vote that way?" tag line.

The spot mentions two specifics. One is that McDonnell sponsored 35 bills on the abortion issue, a now standard line in Deeds' advertising. This claim is true but some context might be helpful. For one, McDonnell was the co-sponsor of most of those measures. He was the chief sponsor of eight.

Also, many of those proposals were identical to one another, different versions of the same idea submitted for consideration in subsequent years when they did not find success in the General Assembly.

Finally, lawmakers sponsor hundreds of bills. The 35 number is a comparatively small portion of the total number of bills sponsored or co-sponsored by McDonnell while in office.

The ad also claims McDonnell opposed birth control for married adults.

The two candidates did part ways on a number of proposals dealing with birth control in their time in the legislature. Most dealt, in some way or another, with the touchy issue of the so-called Morning After pill. McDonnell voted for a bill that would have banned public college health clinics from distributing the drug and backed a bill to provide pharmacists a "conscience clause" that would allow them to refuse to fill prescriptions for it.

In 2000, he voted for a bill that would have made information about birth control available to couples seeking marriage licenses in Virginia only by request. The bill failed and that information continues to be distributed to couples automatically.

In 1997, he voted against a bill that prohibited insurance companies from denying benefits for contraception.

But McDonnell has said strongly that he does not oppose birth control for married couples. The Supreme Court has ruled that laws prohibiting the sale of birth control are unconstitutional and the General Assembly has not in recent memory taken up any bill that would prohibit sale of all forms of birth control, to married couples or otherwise.

By Anne Bartlett  |  September 24, 2009; 4:28 PM ET
Categories:  2009 Governor's Race , Campaign Ads , Creigh Deeds , Election 2009 , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman  
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Next: Rep. Gerry Connolly's Takes Questions on Health Care, Election '09


"analysuis?" Don't you folks use a spell-checker at least?

Posted by: Simon23p | September 24, 2009 5:21 PM | Report abuse

On the bright side for McDonnell, he has the American Taliban's vote locked up. You know, those people whose Pashtun-speaking thinkalikes we are fighting against in Afghanistan.

Posted by: B2O2 | September 24, 2009 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Slow news day? You'd think nothing else significant happened today, such as Virginia's most historic Democratic Governor refusing to endorse the Democratic candidate, for us to be treated to yet another rehash of an ad already posted here.

Do you plan to provide transcripts and cutting-edge analysis for every ad henceforth?

I think the soles on those macaca dancing shoes of yours are starting to wear a bit thin.

Posted by: usrbinperl | September 24, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse

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