WASHINGTON (CNN) – Hoping to advance the narrative that Democrat Creigh Deeds is the "negative" candidate in the Virginia governor's race, Republican Bob McDonnell unveiled two new television ads Friday pushing back against the onslaught of attacks about McDonnell's conservative voting record and his 1989 master's thesis that criticized working women.
One ad ticks through a series of Virginia newspaper columns accusing Deeds of concoting "disingenuous and deceitful ads" about McDonnell's positions on abortion rights and contraception. "Creigh Deeds: No positive ideas, just dishonest attacks," a narrator says.
The second ad is called "Working Woman" and puts McDonnell's daughter Jeanine - who served as an Army lieutenant in Iraq - in front of the camera to tell viewers that McDonnell encouraged his three daughters "to be independent and achieve our goals."
The ads suggest that the McDonnell campaign is playing a bit of defense, as their substantial lead in the polls evaporated after the Deeds campaign started running ads in northern Virginia calling attention to the controversial thesis. Deeds now trails McDonnell by just five points, according to the most recent Washington Post poll of the race.
But McDonnell campaign adviser Ed Gillespie said the Virginia race has "really begun to chrystallize" in McDonnell's favor as a choice between one candidate with ideas and another running "a non-stop negative campaign."
"When you get tagged as the negative candidate this late in the campian, that solidifies and it's hard to come back from that," Gillespie said in a conference call with reporters shortly after the ads were announced.
Gillespie also pounced on Deeds for failing to secure the endorsement of former Virginia governor Doug Wilder, who said Thursday he won't support Deeds because of his support for gun rights and his willingness to raise taxes to fund transportation.
"The last Democratic candidate to run for governor to not get the endorsement of Doug Wilder was Don Beyer, and you remember the outcome of that race," Gillespie said, referring to Beyer's unsuccessful 1997 bid against Republican Jim Gilmore.
Gillespie denied the Virginia race is a referendum on the White House - "This election is not about President Obama," he said - but he also noted that national Democratic legislation on health care and energy will have a harmful effect on the commonwealth's economy.