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At least he admits it when he’s wrong

Republican U.S. Senate primary candidate Tom Campbell announced today that he has raised about $700,000 since switching to this race from the gubernatorial primary about a month ago. “Our fundraising is on fire,” said campaign finance director Kimberley Halcomb.

But it was almost primary rival Chuck DeVore’s pants that were on fire. DeVore campaign spokesman Joshua Trevino sent out an e-mail this afternoon urging reporters to double-check Campbell’s numbers; he said Campbell had fudged a November claim of having surpassed $1 million raised for his gubernatorial bid, given Campbell’s end-of-year report showing only $925,000 raised in 2009.

“We’re not saying his present figure is also false. We’re saying it deserves a bit of skepticism given recent history,” Trevino wrote. “Unfortunately, we can’t take the Campbell campaign’s self-reporting on these things at face value.”

Or, maybe you can. Trevino send a second e-mail 32 minutes after the first:

On the e-mail I just sent out to you — well, there’s no way to sugarcoat it. I was wrong in my line of questioning on Tom Campbell’s self-reported numbers. Turns out he raised approximately 200k in his 2008 exploratory phase. I missed that, and mea culpa.

So ignore the previous, or I suppose you can report it as an error if you like. But I hope a takeaway is that we want to be accurate. We’re not the campaign of demon sheep, after all!

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Tom Campbell rolls out federal budget plan

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tom Campbell just held a conference call with reporters to walk us through his federal budget plan, which would produce a $562 billion deficit in FY 2011 – far less than the $1.27 trillion deficit contemplated by President Obama’s plan.

The White House’s budget would let non-defense discretionary spending grow from $581 billion this fiscal year to $670 billion in the next. Campbell wants to cap it at this year’s level, perhaps by eliminating $3 billion in annual spending on corn ethanol subsidies and by selling off Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

Of $585 billion in not-yet-spent economic stimulus money under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Campbell would take half and use it to cut payroll taxes for employers hiring new employees who’ve been out of work for at least two months. And rather than spending another $100 billion on the jobs bill now making its way through Congress, Campbell would redirect that money to pay down the national debt.

He’d do the same with $200 billion in money returned by banks from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP); President Obama wants to spend that money to stimulate small-bank lending.

And he’d trim $45 billion out of Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program by letting them grow only enough to cover all who are eligible and to keep up with the general inflation rate. Instead of presuming Medicaid will cover everything, he calls for using this money and the states’ contributions to buy insurance policies for the eligible at a fixed price, flexing the government’s buying-power muscle to get a better deal.

“Overall, you have to say this is how much we have to spend, and no more,” he said, adding he rejects President Obama’s proposals to impose a fee on banks bailed out by TARP and to let the Bush Administration’s tax cuts for the rich expire. “I think that would be a mistake in the current economic circumstances.”

GOP Senate primary rival Carly Fiorina has blasted Campbell for having supported tax increases at times in the past. He said today that as a gubernatorial candidate last year he proposed $3 in spending cuts for every $1 he’d have raised through a temporary gas-tax increase, and had his plan been adopted, Californians would be better off.

But the state and federal budgets are like apples and oranges, he said; the state can’t print money, yet must maintain prisons, schools, roads and other programs without fail.

Asked about Fiorina’s now-notorious “demon sheep” Web video, Campbell said his only reply is “this news conference and the substantive work I’ve done on the budget, that returns the campaign to serious discourse.” (Of course, today’s high road aside, it was only a few days ago that his campaign had some choice words for Fiorina’s ad, and that Campbell himself touted it as a fundraising aid.)

He wouldn’t announce any fundraising numbers, although he said it’s going “exceptionally well” – many who weren’t supporting him for governor are now supporting him for the Senate. He’s contemplating doing fundraising events in New York and Washington, D.C., he said, but no dates have been set yet.

UPDATE @ 4:37 P.M.: Fiorina is irked by Campbell’s comments. From campaign spokeswoman Julie Soderlund:

“It’s encouraging to see that Tom Campbell has finally realized what a huge problem his well-documented and long-standing support for higher taxes is going to be in this campaign. What is also going to be a problem is his continued attempts to misrepresent his record and deceive voters. Unfortunately, facts are stubborn things, and the facts in this case are clear: Carly does not support higher taxes on the Internet or otherwise. Tom Campbell supports taxing the Internet – and has for a long time – and he also supports higher gas taxes, sales taxes, car taxes, and the list goes on.”

Actually, Campbell didn’t say his support of last year’s unsuccessful Proposition 1A – which would’ve coupled a spending cap and a rainy-day fund with one- or two-year extensions in sales, income and car tax hikes – was “a huge problem.” He called it a show of “pragmatism” in which he believed “the overall good is worth the short-term harm,” and he said he believes most Republican voters would agree.

As for Fiorina not supporting “higher taxes on the Internet or otherwise,” I’m not sure how that jibes with the report filed yesterday by KGO television’s Mark Matthews, which said Fiorina in June 2000 acknowledged “(i)t’s not realistic of our industry to stand and say this taxation should never be applied to e-commerce,” and urged states to “(b)ring our taxation system into the modern age so that we can tax in a fair way both on line and offline transactions.”

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Rivals pounce on Fiorina’s bankruptcy remark

Everyone’s all up in Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina’s grill today about her comment that California should consider bankruptcy; actually, states can’t declare bankruptcy.

Here’s Fiorina, per the Riverside Press Enterprise yesterday:

Fiorina made a campaign stop at the CalPortland cement plant in Colton. There, she met with more than two dozen local business owners, many in the construction and transportation industries. She fielded questions from them on a host of issues.

One businessman asked her thoughts on whether the state should consider bankruptcy.

“I think it should always be considered,” Fiorina said. “Whether that is the right approach now, I don’t know. I think bankruptcy, as a possibility, at the very least focuses the mind on what has to be done to salvage a situation.”

She tried to walk it back today, talking with the Sac Bee’s Jack Chang:

When asked by The Bee on Wednesday whether she knew states couldn’t declare bankruptcy, Fiorina answered, “Sure, I knew, but what cold comfort is that to all these California voters who may not know that technicality but who are sitting here knowing that by any common-sense definition, this state can’t pay its bills.

“And in fact, the media has described California as bankrupt for months. So I find it interesting that the Democrats are saying legally, it’s not possible. Legally, it’s not possible. But the reality of where we are ought to be focusing people’s minds on what needs to be done.”

When asked what she meant to say the day before, Fiorina answered, “It’s a legal term. It’s also a common sense, everyday term that people use. Morally bankrupt, fiscally bankrupt. In every common sense definition of the word, this state is in serious trouble.”

Her rivals aren’t buying that. Are you?

From James Fisfis, spokesman for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tom Campbell:

“Carly Fiorina’s claim that bankruptcy ‘should always be considered’ as an option for California is even more bizarre than her ‘demon sheep’ ad. It’s absolutely not an option because it’s not permitted under federal law — which shows a disturbing lack of knowledge for a candidate running for a federal office.”

From Joshua Trevino, spokesman for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Chuck DeVore:

“So, to recapitulate:

“1) Carly Fiorina’s mention of a legal impossibility is in fact a mention of a ‘technicality.’
“2) Carly Fiorina’s advocacy of considering an explicit course of action is meant to be understood as a description.
“3) Carly Fiorina says things she professes to have known were untrue when she said them.
“4) Carly Fiorina thinks that people who point out contrary facts are Democrats. (I’ll tell Chuck!)

“Leave aside the troubling nature of an aspirant to federal office dismissing a hypothetical illegality as a ‘technicality.’ Isn’t the bottom line really that Carly Fiorina has a low opinion of the public’s intelligence — and of the intelligence of the media that informs it?”

From California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton:

“Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina suggested that California should keep bankruptcy open as an option. Experts on all sides agree that a state does not have the option to declare bankruptcy.

“Not only does Fiorina’s statement display her ignorance of California and the issues our state faces, but it also sends a message to voters that she’s giving up on the people of California. In the same way that Fiorina thought it too much trouble to vote in the past, she’s now ready to throw in the towel on the state’s economic problems.

“The top of the Republican Senate primary is quickly shaping up to be a contest between a failed CEO looking for a hobby and a man who was the architect of the Schwarzenegger budget disasters that set California on its current course.”

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Fiorina, DeVore visit Beck; Campbell not invited

As I’d mentioned yesterday, U.S. Senate GOP primary candidates Carly Fiorina and Chuck DeVore were both on Fox News personality Glenn Beck’s show yesterday. If you missed it, here ya go:

James Fisfis, communications directror for the campaign of GOP primary frontrunner Tom Campbell, said Campbell wasn’t invited to be on Beck’s show. “If we do receive an invitation, we will accept it.”

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Carly Fiorina’s Demon Sheep: Day 2

Well, the somewhat unorthodox Web video that U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina launched yesterday to poke holes in rival Tom Campbell’s fiscal-conservatism bona fides has moved fully into the realm of the age-old question, “Are they laughing with her, or are they laughing at her?”

If it was all about attention-getting, then: mission accomplished. It’s getting national exposure through outlets including the New York Times, CBS News, ABC News, Politico, Wonkette and countless others.

But whether that coverage is more about Fiorina’s message (Campbell’s fiscal history) or the medium (a dude in a sheep suit with glowing red eyes)… well, read ‘em and see.

Fiorina spokeswoman Julie Soderlund says it’s all good. “Good morning to ewe (sorry, couldn’t resist),” she greeted reporters in an e-mail this morning. “If you didn’t get enough of the demon sheep yesterday, good news, you can buy your very own t-shirt to remember it all by. Check it out here: http://www.cafepress.com/exlg/7055772. Watch out Michael Stars, these are going to be all the rage – and for the low price of $15.99. (note: the campaign has nothing to do with the shirts being created…but we sure are amused by them!)”

“The bottom line is that the facts in the ad are true and the more people who see it (and a lot of people have seen it), no matter their reaction to the wolf in sheep’s clothing (otherwise known as the Demon Sheep – hat tip to Team Campbell again), the more voters will learn that Taxin’ Tom Campbell is a fiscal conservative in name only.”

But a third U.S. Senate candidate, Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, snapped into action yesterday by launching his own site, www.demonsheep.org, ostensibly maintained by the SFTEODSFOPD – the Society for the Eradication of Demon Sheep from our Political Discourse.”

And this morning, DeVore spokesman Joshua Trevino is shopping around a story about who greenlit the ad, mocking the Fiorina campaign’s stance that so long as people are talking about the ad in any context, it’s all good.

“This line requires one to believe that the Fiorina campaign deliberately weighed the negatives (expenditure of c.$20,000, swift use by both rival campaigns, global mockery) against the positives (attention) and decided the latter outweighed the former,” Trevino wrote. “Suffice it to say that, first, they didn’t — and second, this is a crisis-communications strategy perfected back in 1985, viz.:”

Trevino then traces some Fiorina campaign staffing history to impute that Fiorina herself might’ve seen and approved the ad before its release. Personally, I’d like to think that candidates see and approve all their ads before they’re released; I’d think it more newsworthy if she hadn’t seen it than if she had.

Assuming any of this is newsworthy in the first place.

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Today’s hot U.S. Senate campaign rhetoric

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina, trailing newcomer Tom Campbell in the latest polls, today rolled out a Web site and video taking Campbell to task as a “FCINO” – a Fiscal Conservative in Name Only. (Note to Fiorina campaign staffers: “DINO” and “RINO” worked well as acronyms because they were easily pronounced. Also, the sheep with the glowing red eyes is freaking me out.)

The site and video attack Campbell’s record as state finance director under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Campbell’s support of temporary tax hikes rather than draconian cuts alone to close last year’s enormous budget deficit.

“California voters beware: Tom Campbell is a wolf in sheep’s clothing when it comes to his campaign rhetoric on taxes and government spending. He is a fiscal liberal masquerading as a ‘Fiscal Conservative In Name Only,’” Fiorina spokeswoman Julie Soderlund said in today’s news release. “The last thing California needs is another tax-hiking, big-spending senator – Barbara Boxer has done more than her fair share of that over the last 18 years. And given his record of support for higher taxes, more borrowing and increased government spending, there is no reason to believe Taxin’ Tom would be any different.”

Meanwhile, the California Democratic Party rolled out its CarlyFailorina.com site today, highlighting what it calls a failed business record for the former Hewlett-Packard CEO. The site also features an introductory video of Fiorina and invites visitors to submit their own “Carly Fail” stories.

“Carly Fiorina would be an unmitigated disaster for California,” said California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton. “But just don’t take our word for it. Talk to any of the 28,000 people she fired while she was busy sending jobs overseas and running Hewlett-Packard right into the ground.”

So Fiorina, who holds an enormous fundraising (that is, self-funding) advantage, is attacking the rival who’s leading in the polls, while the Democrats keep their sights trained on Fiorina. Who do you think Barbara Boxer would rather face this fall?

UPDATE @ 5:54 P.M.: Soderlund says FCINO is pronounced FAH-SEE-NO.

Pronunciation isn’t most people’s top issue with the site; rather, it seems to be the – ahem – surreal nature of its Web video. Perhaps Robert Cruickshank put it best in his post at Calitics.com, calling it “a cross between a bad church recruitment video, a Monty Python sketch, and a Pink Floyd album cover.”

But as Soderlund puts it, it’s “fine by us since the more people talk about it, the more people watch it, which of course is the whole point.”

And, she noted, although the Democratic site tries to cast the candidate as “Failorina,” it launched with an epic fail of its own.

“We take it as a compliment that Barbara Boxer continues to spend money to attack Carly,” Soderlund said of the California Democratic Party’s site. “She’s clearly the candidate Boxer would least like to face in the general election because she can, and will, beat her. Although, it would be nice if the Democrats could at least get their facts straight, Carly is running for Senate, not Governor – one minor detail.”

UPDATE @ 6:15 P.M.: Wanted to share one more description, this one from Wonkette: “It’s best at the beginning and end, especially the end, picking up steam at exactly 2:26. ‘2:26’ is the absolute most terrifying second of video on YouTube since the most recently uploaded clip of Roger Ailes.”

UPDATE @ 7:47 P.M.: When life gives Carly Fiorina lemons, Chuck DeVore makes lemonade!