Whitman camp says negative ads kick off ‘issues debate’

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Most campaign watchers call it ‘negative advertising.’ Meg Whitman’s aides have another name: ‘the issues debate.’

On Friday, Whitman announced the launch of four television ads and a website that aim to depict her GOP opponent, Steve Poizner – shown with the usual unflattering expression – as an untrustworthy hypocrite who changes his words and positions to suit the time and place.


Later, campaign spokeswoman Sarah Pompei sent a note to reporters highlighting an online column that, she said, ‘looks at the strategic decision behind our campaign’s decision to kick off the issues debate between Whitman and Poizner on the airwaves.’

Pompei went on: ‘Our campaign strongly believes Californians deserve a lengthened debate between the candidates, which is why our campaign launched this advertising today.’

Here again, ‘debate’ seems to be a term of art that applies only to taped advertisements. Whitman has so far declined Poizner’s repeated calls for an actual debate between the candidates at the Republican state convention in March.

[Updated at 6:32 p.m.: Pompei writes in to note that after the GOP convention, there will be two actual debates, ‘where Meg and Commissioner Poizner will attend.’ One is March 15 in Orange County and the other is May 2, sponsored by Comcast. Both will be televised and open to the media, she said.]

--Michael Rothfeld in Sacramento