Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer dipped into her formidable war chest Monday to air the first ad of the general election campaign for U.S. Senate, one that reintroduces her to California voters by highlighting her efforts to secure federal funds for clean energy jobs, day care centers and a San Diego-based care center for wounded soldiers.
The Boxer campaign is spending more than $2 million to air the 30-second ad on broadcast and cable stations this week in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento and San Diego areas, according to two sources familiar with the ad purchase. A buy that significant for a positive spot seven weeks before the election underscores Boxer's precarious position in a year when incumbents have fallen out of favor with voters.
Although Democrats outnumber Republicans in California, Boxer has been in a dead heat for much of the summer with her Republican rival, Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive.
Boxer has trumped Fiorina in fundraising so far — reporting nearly 12 times more cash on hand than Fiorina at the close of the last reporting period June 30. But several outside organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a group affiliated with former White House operative Karl Rove, have weighed in with anti-Boxer ads to help Fiorina. Fiorina, whose personal wealth is estimated on disclosure forms as being between $27.7 million and $121 million, has not indicated whether she will put more into her campaign beyond the $5.5 million she has already donated.
The ad shows Boxer visiting with California workers and schoolchildren and includes images of wounded military personnel. "I'm working to make California the leader in clean energy, to jump-start our small businesses with tax credits and loans, to create thousands more California jobs," Boxer says into the camera.
Fiorina was not mentioned in the new spot, but she immediately sent a fundraising appeal warning supporters that Boxer had begun to "spend heavily" and that without a "proper response" they risked "allowing Barbara Boxer to coast to re-election."
At an event in Glendale, the former business executive blasted the "failed" federal stimulus package and said Boxer's claim in her ad that she had created jobs was "truly amazing," given the state's 12.3% unemployment rate. Fiorina also accused Boxer of exaggerating her accomplishments, particularly her support for veterans, noting that Boxer voted against several military spending bills, including one that would have increased funding for body armor.
"For her to stand and say she has been supportive of veterans…is an insult," Fiorina told reporters from a rooftop overlooking the site of an abandoned stimulus project. "This is a senator who refused to back funding for our troops when they were in harm's way.... Sen. Boxer is unencumbered by the facts."
Boxer has said she opposed the 2003 emergency spending bill that boosted money for equipment like body armor because provisions had been removed that "would have made a difference" in altering U.S. strategy in Iraq, a war she opposed. Her aides point out that several days earlier, she voted for a Democratic amendment that would have increased funding for body armor.
"Barbara Boxer is a strong supporter of giving our troops the resources they need to serve our country and the care they have earned when they return home," the Democratic senator's campaign manager, Rose Kapolczynski, said in a statement.