Imagine a stampeding herd of angry elephants, and you get an idea of what Democrat Richard Carmona is facing now that he’s offended Arizona Republican Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain.
The two Republican incumbents unleashed a television ad Tuesday accusing Mr. Carmona of dishonesty after he implied in a recent ad that they had endorsed him in the hard-fought Arizona Senate race.
“Richard Carmona’s latest ad is the most shameful of all, implying Jon and I support him. We don’t,” says Mr. McCain in the 30-second television spot, which shows him standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Mr. Kyl.
Says Mr. Kyl: “We helped Carmona 10 years ago, but found he’s not the kind of man to represent you in the U.S. Senate … We support Jeff Flake. He’s a proven reformer, and he’s honest.”
The Carmona campaign touched off the furor last week with the release of a television spot showing both Republican senators praising him during his 2002 Senate confirmation hearings for U.S. Attorney General. Mr. Carmona, then an unaffiliated voter, was nominated by President George W. Bush, and Republicans later tried to recruit him to run for Congress.
Former Arizona Sen. Dennis DeConcini, a Democrat, weighed in on the Carmona camp’s behalf Tuesday with a statement accusing the Republicans of short memories, saying that “[W]hen leaders on their side of the aisle believed they could exploit Dr. Carmona’s life story for partisan gain, they were his biggest supporters.”
Initial Democratic efforts to defend the Carmona ad were problematic. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Matt Canter apologized for his “poor choice of words” after he initially called the Republican senators’ ad “a hostage video” in a Twitter message. Mr. McCain was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for six years after his plane was shot down in 1967.
A Carmona spokesman who reportedly denounced the Republican senators as “career politicians” was taken to task Tuesday by the Arizona Republic, which described the statement as “making-things-worse punk talk on multiple levels.”
“More to the point, if McCain and Kyl are really mere ‘career pols’ easily brushed aside by campaign spokesmen, why did Rich Carmona go to the trouble of doctoring up their testimonials?” said the newspaper editorial.
Mr. Carmona is vying with Republican Rep. Jeff Flake to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Mr. Kyl’s retirement. A Rasmussen Reports poll released Oct. 25 found Mr. Flake leading by a margin of 50 to 44 percentage points.