The GOP candidate for governor of Virginia, Jerry Kilgore, lost to the Democrat Tim Kaine. The highlight of that race was a Kilgore campaign ad which claimed that according to Kaine, Hitler did not qualify for the death penalty.
Hitler does not qualify for the death penalty in Virginia for the following reasons:
1. None of his heinious crimes were commited in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
2. He has been dead for 60 years.
Kaine responded by insisting that as governor he would apply the death penalty as perscribed by law. Kilgore's ad backfired, making him look like a nut.
Can a response to a hypothetical question cost a person an election?
In 1988 Michael Dukakis was asked if he would support the death penalty if his own wife was murdered. He said no, and it would have cost him the election had not a dozen other factors costed him the election. There is no way to properly answer that question during a televised debate. Either he answers no and it seems that he doesn't love his wife or he answers yes and looks like a hypocrite.
Hypothetical questions are only fair in a political if they involve situations that are likely to happen in the real world, like would Candidate A use nuclear weapons to retaliate against a nuke attack on the US. The murderer of a First Lady would be tried in a state court and thus not subject to presidential pardon. Death sentences are handed down by judges and juries, not widows and widowers.