California Sen. Barbara Boxer's re-election campaign is shaping up as the fight of her political career, according to a Field Poll released Thursday.
The survey shows a statistical tie in hypothetical matchups between the three-term Democratic incumbent and two of her potential Republican challengers, former congressman Tom Campbell and former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina.
Boxer has won by progressively larger margins in each of her previous re-election campaigns, but this year faces strong headwinds from the recession, which has left California with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.
The poll shows 51 percent of likely voters have an unfavorable opinion of Boxer while just 38 percent have a favorable one.
Boxer's standing with voters has crumbled in the past two months, even though it would appear the economy has begun to stabilize.
"Part of what we're seeing in these numbers is the very tough political environment we're in," said Boxer's campaign manager, Rose Kapolczynski. "Voters are frustrated about the pace of economic recovery and are expressing that through this poll."
She said criticism from the Republican candidates also has taken its toll.
"I know when we tell the story of Barbara Boxer's record and her fight to create jobs here, that she'll be re-elected," Kapolczynski said.
Campbell leads Fiorina 28 percent to 22 percent among likely GOP voters in the June primary, with 9 percent favoring state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore of Irvine. About four in 10 GOP primary voters say they are undecided, indicating the race is still wide open.
Each of the Republican candidates drew positive news from the poll.
Campbell continues leading the primary race despite stepped up attacks from Fiorina and DeVore. They have questioned his past support for tax increases and whether he fully supports Israel.
"He's been attacked by the other candidates for two weeks straight, and it hasn't changed the fundamentals of the race," said James Fisfis, a spokesman for the Campbell campaign.
Fiorina's campaign said Campbell's high name identification with California voters was largely driving the poll results.
"Carly remains relatively unknown to Republican primary voters at this point," said campaign spokeswoman Julie Soderlund. "But over the next three months, we anticipate that will change as she continues to proactively communicate with them."
While DeVore remains far down in the polls, his campaign noted that both Campbell and Fiorina saw their numbers drop slightly since a Field Poll taken in January. At that time, Campbell was the choice of 30 percent of likely GOP primary voters and Fiorina was the choice of 25 percent. Meanwhile, DeVore went from 6 percent to 9 percent.
"It's an improvement. Our arrow is pointing in a different direction than theirs. And the number of undecideds increasingly tells me the front-runners haven't sealed the deal," said Joshua Trevino, a spokesman for DeVore.
The poll was conducted March 9-15 among 748 likely voters in the general election and 353 likely voters in the GOP primary. The margin of error for the questions relating to the general election was plus or minus 3.7 percentage points and was slightly higher for the GOP primary voters
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