BOXER VS. FONG I: Ads Give Boxer Lead In Polls, But Union- Tribune Endorses Fong
Incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) "has reversed her fortunes, rebuffed her image and pulled slightly ahead of state Treasurer Matt Fong (R) just 11 days before the election," according to a new Los Angeles Times poll. The Times reports that Boxer leads Fong by 5% -- 49% to 44% -- "among those likely to vote." Her newfound edge may be the result of her television ads (Barabak, 10/23). In a separate poll, Sacramento television station KXTV reported Wednesday night that Boxer's abortion ads may be the engine behind her newfound lead in the polls that have her 9 points ahead of Fong, up from two points in the most recent poll. According to a KXTV poll of 500 "likely" voters, 52% now support Boxer and 43% support Fong. Additionally, 22% of Republicans support Boxer, a statistic that surprised the Republican Party, which had "singled her out for extinction." KXTV's Tom Marshall reported, "Ten days before Halloween, Boxer rises from the political dead to say boo to Republicans" (KXTV, 10/21).
The Inoffensive Candidate...
Irrespective of the polling data, the San Diego Union-Tribune Wednesday endorsed Fong over Boxer, arguing that "even Democrats who are naturally inclined to vote against a Republican acknowledge that, partisan politics aside, they find Fong, a social moderate and fiscal conservative, rather inoffensive." However, the Union-Tribune alleged that "[t]he same cannot be said of Boxer. The junior senator evinces what most charitably can be described as a combative personality. Her vituperativeness comes across all too obviously in her sneering political commercials attacking her opponent with distortions. ... She insists she's not an abortion extremist, but she opposes any limitation whatsoever on abortion, including parental consent for underage children and a ban on partial-birth abortions." The paper concluded, "Fong's equanimity in temperament and genuine mainstream positions on the issues would make him an asset to California in the Republican-controlled Senate. That's why he deserves to be the voters' choice on Nov. 3" (Union- Tribune, 10/21).
...Runs Inoffensive Ads
The Los Angeles Times yesterday interviewed experts regarding Fong's and Boxer's advertising strategies. Dee Dee Myers, former Clinton press secretary: "Fong's ads are sort of Politics 1A. His abortion ad, responding to Boxer's charge that he's not pro-choice, is a blend of poll-tested positions. 'I'm for parental consent' in the case of a minor. Most Californians are. 'I'm against indiscriminate late-term abortions.' Everyone I know would agree with that. But why is he doing this ad? If you're voting on the issue of abortion rights, you're going to vote for Boxer." Don Sipple, GOP media consultant: "Fong's abortion response spot is clean and fluid, with some good thinking behind it. It starts with those old pictures of him as a kid, then talks about his birth mother making the right choice -- adoption. All of that personalizes the thing. Too many times you get these cliche-driven abortion ads; this one feels like it comes from the heart. And having his wife in the shot with him is a nice touch." Kirk Souder, creative partner at Santa Monica ad firm Ground Zero Branding: "Fong ... uses his own life to illuminate his position on an issue. It opens with pictures of him as a boy -- even one of him in a cowboy suit. That feels nostalgic and breaks the boundary of us seeing him as a pure politician. Then we hear his message about how his mom chose adoption instead of abortion. It's powerful." (Warren, 10/22).
...But Would Abortion Be 'Abandoned'?
Californians for Responsible Choices, a project of Planned Parenthood of California, reports that according to a Planned Parenthood analysis of Fong's public statements, Fong "would likely abandon a woman's right to choose four out of five times." Kathy Kneer, CEO of Planned Parenthood California and CRC treasurer, said, "Candidate Fong wants to have it both ways by playing politics on the abortion issue and is misleading voters in his recent T.V. ads. Planned Parenthood believes that when it comes down to a vote Candidate Fong would abandon a woman's right to make informed and private health care decisions" (CRC release, 10/21).