McCain and Kyl condemned the ad in a statement released by Flake's campaign, accusing Carmona of misleading voters about who they support.
"In a deeply dishonest new TV ad, Richard Carmona implies that we support his campaign for Senate. We do not," the senators said in the statement, later adding that "Jeff Flake is our candidate."
The move by Carmona harkens back to a similar testimonial-without-an-endorsement move used by Sen. Jim Webb
, D-Va., when he took on then-Sen. George Allen
during the 2006 Virginia Senate race.
On September 7 of that year, Webb launched a television ad, "Gipper
", that featured Ronald Reagan
addressing a U.S. Naval Academy graduating class in 1985.
"One man who sat where you do now is another member of our administration, assistant secretary of defense James Webb, the most decorated member of his class," said Reagan during his speech in the ad. "James's gallantry as a Marine officer in Vietnam won him the Navy cross and other decorations."
Former first lady Nancy Reagan asked
Webb to remove the ad and, when he didn't, Allen's campaign released a TV ad
of its own, panning Webb for defying Reagan.
"Webb attacked Reagan policy. Now Webb wants you to believe the late president would support him. Nancy Reagan doesn't. She called on Webb to take down his ad. Webb refused. Would Ronald Reagan really endorse a candidate who hires people that call him a 'fool' and disrespects the wishes of his widowed wife? That's just fiction," states the ad's narrator before Allen offers his approval message.
Webb went on to take a late lead in polling the next month and won one of the tightest races in the country that November, tipping the balance of power in the Senate to the Democrats.