Something unusual has happened in the post mortem to the election: both Elizabeth Dole and Kay Hagan's campaigns have made public where their internal polling stood before the whole 'Godless Americans' fiasco. Dole's campaign told the News&Observer they were down by 8 points. Hagan's pollster told Politico that they were up by 3-4 points.
I think Hagan's polling was more likely to be correct. We were in the field Saturday and Sunday the weekend before for a public poll and found Hagan up by 3, then in the field again Tuesday and Wednesday for a private poll that we tacked the Senate race onto and found Hagan up by 3 on that one as well. Dole had been tightening up the race a little bit as she put herself on camera more talking to the voters and reminding them why they liked her when she ran the first time six years ago.
Perhaps if she had realized several weeks earlier that it was her image she needed to fix and not Hagan's that she needed to try to destroy, Dole could have evened up the race without having to take the risk of the 'Godless Americans' ad. You can add bad polling to the list of everything else that was bad about Dole's campaign.