Rhode Island independent candidate for governor Lincoln Chafee went on the air with a television ad featuring President Barack Obama Tuesday, the day after his Democratic opponent Frank Caprio said Obama could take his endorsement and "shove it."
Chafee's campaign manager, Mike Trainor, tells Fox News the ad was actually produced weeks ago and will be part of a $300,000 buy over the last week of the campaign.
The Chafee camp calls the ad a "testimonial," featuring comments by then-presidential candidate Obama in March of 2008, as well as Independent New York City Mayor talking up Chaffee in September of this year.Chafee is a former Republican U.S. Senator who left the party in 2007, a year after losing his re-election bid to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse who tied Chaffee to President Bush and his unpopular Iraq war.
Chafee is a political legacy in Rhode Island, where his father, John, served as State Representative, Governor and later Senator. Obama welcomed the high-profile endorsement during the 2008 presidential primary season. And as a result the president has stayed out of this race, leaving Caprio and his camp fuming.
"This election isn't about Washington insider deals," Caprio Spokesman Nick Hermond told Fox News. "It's about creating jobs."
When asked about the story today during the White House briefing spokesman Robert Gibbs said, "There's a relationship and a friendship with former Senator Cheney," before correcting his mistake and adding "Chafee... I was just doing that to see if you guys were awake."
On Caprio's comments, Gibbs added, "It's not what I would have said... His words don't in any way match those of a campaign looking for an endorsement."
Indeed Caprio had said he would welcome Obama's endorsement and surprised Chafee's campaign when he told the president to "shove it."
"It stunned us," said Trainor. "He had been disciplined the entire campaign... Then we understood that it was indeed a calculated political move to attract conservative Democrats who had left him for [Republican gubernatorial nominee] John Robataille."
The polling suggests this race will go down to the wire. The Real Clear Politics average has Caprio barely leading Chaffee 32% to 30.3% with Robitaille languishing at 20%.
Jake Gibson is a producer working at the Fox News Washington bureau who covers politics, law enforcement and intelligence issues.