Religious Attack Ad Rallies Conservatives to Rand Paul's Side

The skirmish in Kentucky, also known as the campaign for the open Senate seat of retiring Sen. GOP Jim Bunning, seems frozen in time as both campaigns battle it out over an attack ad Democratic attorney general Jack Conway unleashed on his Republican opponent, Rand Paul.

And the ad, which bashes Paul for his alleged involvement in a college prank 30 years ago that involved tying up a woman and forcing her to bow down to a false god, thereby questioning his faith, has rallied social conservatives to the Republican's side.

Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council Action PAC, announced his endorsement of the Tea Party candidate in a conference call with reporters Thursday, saying he is "very confident on where (Paul's) priorities are."

Perkins, who served in the Louisiana state house, said, "Having been in the political realm, having held office, and run for office, I know the kind of impact these kinds of allegations can have on your family," adding, "I don't think there's credibility behind this."

Perkins, joined by Penny Nance of the conservative Concerned Women of America, also called into question the allegations at the root of the ad which were made by an anonymous woman first to GQ magazine and then repeated to other news outlets.

"When you hear the words 'anonymous allegations', it's almost an oxymoron. They're going to make a claim but their not willing to stand by it," Perkins said. "We're also talking about years ago. What I think is important is where someone stands today or in the recent past," adding that had something like this happened recently, it "might be a different story."

Nance proclaimed Paul a "Christian" and said, "I think it's difficult to take seriously allegations people aren't willing to publicly endorse. It's problematic to look at silly things people perhaps said or didn't say when people were in college and try to equate them with positions years later. We have knowledge today....he is a social conservative and a fiscal conservative and will support policies that will help American women."

Conway, for his part, is standing by his ad, telling Fox's Carl Cameron Thursday, "I'm not questioning his faith, I'm questioning actions. He still hasn't answered the question. Why is it appropriate to join a group that is known for mocking people of a faith?"

All of this comes a day after GOP presidential hopeful and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee released a radio ad and robocall calling on Conway to "repent" after his "classless attack" on Paul's Christian faith.

The Republican candidate marched off the stage at his last debate with Conway, citing the ad as reason he would not shake his opponent's hand, and later questioned whether or not he would appear at the next forum on Monday. Paul campaign manager Jesse Benton told reporters Thursday that a decision would be announced Friday.

"We remain very disappointed that Mr. conway has not removed his ad," Benton said, but added, "At the end of the day, Dr. Paul is a Christian. He believes in turning the other cheek."

Conway's team made it crystal clear Thursday that their candidate would be at the forum, regardless. In an e-mailed statement to reporters, campaign spokesman John Collins said, "Attorney General Jack Conway will be at the debate - regardless of whether Rand Paul has the guts to answer basic questions about his own actions. Jack understands and will always stand up for the people of Kentucky. Rand should stop his huffing and puffing and start answering people's questions."