California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman unleashed a barrage of negative campaign ads against her opponent Steve Poizner this afternoon — despite the fact that she is the clear front runner. Whitman’s campaign claim that this is in response to what they perceive to be opponent Steve Poizner’s last-ditch strategy to salvage the primary.
Whitman strategists told FrumForum that they think Poizner may hold out on advertising buys until much closer to the Republican primary on June 8, and lay low on advertising even through the state GOP’s March convention.
Presumptive Democratic nominee Jerry Brown’s allies have already started hammering Meg Whitman. An independently organized committee calling itself “Levelling the Playing Field 2010 Against Billionaire Meg Whitman” recently launched two anti-Whitman radio ads. The committee is organized by long-time Democratic strategist Chris Lehane and is funded by nurses, college faculty and painters’ unions.
Whitman operatives believe that Poizner will lay low to take advantage of Democratic attacks on Whitman. “We think that [Poizner] plans to soak up the advantages of union money at the front end, and go negative at the tail end of the campaign,” Whitman spokesman Tucker Bounds told FrumForum.
With this in mind, the Whitman campaign launched a set of negative ads this afternoon, charging that Poizner opposed tax cuts; wanted to raise property taxes; gave $10,000 to Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign; and has worked with unions. Watch the ads here.
“It became increasingly apparent that as a result of Poizner’s strategy, it was in our interest to begin the issue examination sooner,” one Whitman campaign strategist told FrumForum.
Poizner, who like Whitman has contributed millions to his own campaign, had nearly $18 million on hand at the beginning of this year.
Despite his bulging bank balance and a poll that puts himself nearly fifty points behind Whitman, Poizner’s most widely-covered event in 2010 was a bizarre press conference in which he accused Whitman’s campaign of “apply[ing] improper pressure” because one of Whitman’s campaign strategists had encouraged him to drop out.
Poizner has already signalled that he’s willing to spend the remainder of his funds. In an interview with the Associated Press, he said: “We’re going to spend it all… I mean, it’s not like I’m trying to keep my resources for the general or something. We’re going to spend what it takes.”
Down by close to fifty points in the polls, going negative may be Poizner’s only chance to squeeze through the primary. Whitman campaign staff say it’s unnecessary and will only hurt efforts to put a Republican in the governor’s mansion.
“He’s on a kamikaze mission,” predicted Bounds. “He’s going to go hard negative at the end, and it’s only going to hurt Republican chances.”
The Poizer campaign declined to respond to repeated press inquiries from FrumForum.
However, Poizner spokesman Jarrod Agen did tell the Contra Costa Times a week ago that “there’s clearly there’s no master strategy… It’s a very fluid plan. It depends on the dynamics of a campaign. But I’d never divulge outside the campaign when our media strategy begins.”
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