The guy behind the "Hitler Ad"

WCCO political reporter Pat Kessler nicely dissected Senate hopeful Mark Kennedy's inaugural campaign ad, which makes the somewhat laughable claim that Kennedy--among the most reliable pro-Administration votes in Congress--is "not much of a party guy." But Kessler's best catch in the piece is shining the spotlight on Kennedy's media consultant, Scott Howell.

Despite the soft-focus approach of the Kennedy ad, Howell is best known in political circles for a willingness to "go negative" with a nearly unmatched gusto. He had a hand in the Swift Boat campaign and was linked to a television spot in the 2002 Georgia senate race which portrayed Max Cleland as soft on defense. The ad achieved this by the most unseemly means--alternating a picture of Cleland, who lost both his legs in the Vietnam War, with images of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

Howell has disavowed a role in that particular commercial. But he was the acknowledged force behind the notorious "Hitler ad" from last year's Virginia gubernatorial race. In the spot, the narrator stated that "[Democratic candidate] Tim Kaine says Adolph Hitler doesn't qualify for the death penalty."

Voter disgust over the Hitler ad was cited as a factor in Kaine's victory. Despite that episode of apparent over-reaching, Howell is still feared by Democrats who cite his enviable track record of electoral successes, which includes the 2002 campaign of Norm Coleman.