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Carly Fiorina goes negative in the final stretch

May 28, 2010 |  1:28 pm

In a strategy call unveiling new ads earlier this month, Republican Senate Candidate Carly Fiorina’s campaign consultants said the omission of any mention of her primary rivals was part of an effort to get voters focused on the contrast between Fiorina and Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer. But apparently, they’ve decided that isn’t enough to close the deal with Republican primary voters before June 8.

Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive, aired a new television advertisement Friday that features her endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and attacks former Congressman Tom Campbell for refusing to sign a pledge promising he would not raise taxes. The ad faults Campbell’s tax record as a congressman and for supporting tax hikes last year in California to help close the state’s budget gap.

"Thinking of voting for Tom Campbell? Even though he refused to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge?" the ad’s narrator asks. "… Carly did sign the pledge.  Sarah Palin endorsed Carly Fiorina, instead. She called Campbell a liberal who 'seems to bear almost no difference to Boxer.' "

Both Fiorina and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore of Irvine, who is not mentioned, have signed the tax pledge put out by the Washington-based Americans for Tax Reform, but Campbell has declined, explaining that "you don't know what the future is going to be."

Campbell’s spokesman, James Fisfis, said Fiorina’s strategy reflected the tightness of the race: "The only reason you go negative in a three-way race is if you fear losing," he said. "Obviously they are seeing something that causes them great consternation."

Fisfis said Campbell’s spots emphasizing his fiscal conservatism have been airing on broadcast and cable channels in San Diego, Los Angeles and the Central Valley for the past week. The campaign has put less emphasis on the Bay Area, he said, because Campbell is well-known there after serving five terms in Congress.

"We are focusing on the areas where people are still getting to know Tom and we’re being very efficient because we don’t have Carly Fiorina’s bank account," he said. 

Campbell out-raised Fiorina in the period between April 1 and May 19, bringing in $989,662 in contributions to her $909,000. But over the past two weeks, Fiorina has lent her campaign $3 million, giving her a strong advantage with $2.1 million in cash on hand to his $400,000 in the final stretch.    

That may make it difficult to respond to some of her attacks. The ad takes on Campbell’s vote against a House tax-cut package in mid-1997, which he said in a recent interview "would have exacerbated the budget deficit."

Fiorina’s spot also hits Campbell for supporting tax increases last year to help bring California’s budget in balance, including a one-year, 32-cent-a-gallon gas tax hike that was part of the budget plan he laid out when he was still running for governor. Campbell said recently that his plan was a better solution than what was ultimately approved: “The structural failure of the budget is apparent to all of us today,” he said.

-- Maeve Reston in Los Angeles