[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/04/art.mcdonnell.cnn.jpg caption="McDonnell touts his family in his latest ad."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican Bob McDonnell is using a new television ad to push back against a wave of criticism over his 1989 master's thesis, which argued that working women are harmful to traditional families.
The 20-year old research paper has dominated headlines in the Virginia governor's race this week, with much of the coverage being spurred on by Democrat Creigh Deeds in an effort to portray McDonnell as too conservative for the moderate voters who have gravitated to the Republican's side.
McDonnell's new ad, which his campaign touted as "positive" in a press release late Thursday, portrays the former state Attorney General walking at a brisk pace along the streets of the northern Virginia neighborhood where he grew up. His three daughters - including his daughter Jeanine, an Army officer who served in Iraq - figure prominently in the 30-second commercial, which is called "Leadership."
McDonnell opens the spot with an homage to his working mother, distancing himself from his 1989 claim that such women are "detrimental" to the family unit.
"An Air Force officer and working mom raised me in this middle class neighborhood," he says.
The Republican hopeful goes on to promise results on the economy, job creation and college costs - avoiding the topic of social issues, as he has worked to do for much of the campaign.
The ad is running statewide but not in northern Virginia, where Deeds is running a tough radio ad accusing McDonnell of wanting to take Virginia back to "the dark ages."