Whitman uses Clinton to slam Brown

California’s gubernatorial race is starting to heat up, with the latest blow coming from GOP candidate Meg Whitman’s campaign.

Whitman has been quick to criticize competitor Jerry Brown’s political record, but she may have landed her strongest punch yet with a TV ad released on Thursday.

The spot features a clip from a 1992 debate between then-Democratic presidential primary rivals Brown and Bill Clinton, with Clinton stating,

“CNN not me, CNN, says his assertion about his tax record is just plain wrong. Jerry Brown went out there and took credit for the fact that the people of California voted for Proposition 13, which lowered taxes, which he opposed. And now he is going around taking credit for it. He raised taxes as governor of California. He had a surplus when he took office and a deficit when he left. He doesn’t tell the people the truth.”

Using Bill Clinton as a conduit for Whitman’s anti-Brown message is a strong attempt at cutting into Brown’s democratic base and invalidating his claims about his accomplishments as governor of California from 1975-1983.

Jerry Brown fought back on Sunday with an attack on the former president, which seemed to accomplish Whitman’s goal of fracturing the Democratic party.

Brown slammed Clinton with a reference to the Monica Lewinsky scandal, “Clinton’s a nice guy, but who ever said he always told the truth?” Brown later added, “I did not have taxes with this state.”

Brown also claimed that Clinton’s claims in the 1992 debate were false.

On Monday, The SF Chronicle reported that Brooks Jackson, whose story was referred to by Clinton in the 1992 debate, has admitted to making a mistake.

Jackson wrote on his website, Factcheck.org:

“Brown is right. I made a mistake in my 1992 report. Most of what I said back in 1992 remains true. But I was wrong when I said that ‘state taxes were still higher’ during his last year than when he began. In fact, they were a bit lower.”

Jackson’s revelation does render the ad somewhat misleading, but voters are sure to remember Brown’s flustered reaction to the creative TV spot. It’s hard to spin the ad and the saga, which ensued, as anything other than a win for Whitman’s campaign.

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