From NBC's Mark Murray
It's getting ugly in the Meg Whitman-vs.-Steve Poizner GOP gubernatorial primary in California.
First, in a statement to reporters, the Poizner campaign accused Whitman strategist Mike Murphy of contacting a Poizner campaign consultant and threatening Poizner to exit the race.
"After the Whitman campaign's Mike Murphy's call to a high ranking member of the Poizner campaign proved to be unsuccessful in forcing Steve Poizner from the race, Murphy sent the following e-mail to a senior member of Steve Poizner's team," the statement reads. "In the e-mail, Murphy threatens that the Whitman campaign 'can spend $40M+ tearing up Steve if we must; bad for him…' The Murphy e-mail has been sent to the proper authorities, including the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's office, and the Attorney General's office for review of ethical violations."
Now Murphy is firing back. "After reading the ridiculous charges made by Steve Poizner during today's strange press conference, all I can say is that I'm starting to worry about Commissioner's mental condition."
More Murphy: "Several weeks ago I was advised by a source close to Steve Poizner that his pollster, my old friend Jan van Lohuizen, had been expressing grave doubts about the viability of the faltering Poizner campaign. So I emailed Jan; this is the email the Commissioner is so excited about. About ten days ago I also placed a phone call to a second senior Poizner consultant. We had a nice talk and discussed the option of Poizner considering a race for Senate in 2012. The consultant offered to discuss this with Commissioner Poizner and asked for a number where I could be called back. I do not plan to make any further comment on these discussions, as I do not want to create even more embarrassment for his consultants, or get anybody fired."