Calbuzz caught up with Barbara Boxer Tuesday, at the tail end of Day One of her old-school campaign flyaround, and was intrigued to find that her biggest applause line came on the issue of abortion.
As a new Field Poll showed Boxer with a slight 47-44% lead over Republican nominee Carly Fiorina, the Democratic incumbent peppered the speeches on her “Jobs for California” tour, which focused mainly on the economy, with references underscoring stark contrasts on social issues between her and Fiorina, including her own staunch pro-choice position and the Republican’s extreme pro-life stance.
No pro-life candidate has won at the top of the ticket in California in a race for governor or Senate in more than two decades. And the new poll shows a considerable gender gap which suggests that Boxer may be benefiting from her stand on choice compared to Fiorina’s, even before the issue is driven home to voters.
Overall Boxer trails Fiorina, 42-49% among men, but leads 51-40% among women. But here’s how that comes to be: Boxer runs 19 points better among Democratic women (79-12%) than among Democratic men (70-22%); nine points better among Republican women (12-81%) than Republican men (8-86%) and 10 points better among independent women (49-35%) than independent men (46-42%).
In other words, Boxer is running better among women than she is among men across all party lines.
At a time of 12.7 percent unemployment in the state, the political purpose of Boxer’s 36-hour, nine-city barnstorm was to claim credit for saving or creating several hundred thousand jobs* because of her vote for the 2009 stimulus bill, and to claim that more are on the way with gauzy promises about development of a new green energy industry.
But we’ve long argued that abortion and other values issues could be critical in the Senate race, despite the conventional wisdom that economics is all that matters in 2010. That’s why we thought the pro-choice Tom Campbell would have made a tougher Republican general election opponent for Babs, except for the inconvenient fact that he can’t win a GOP primary.
“I do think she’s out of the mainstream,” Boxer said of Fiorina in an interview.
Speaking Tuesday night in Santa Barbara (World Headquarters of the Calbuzz Department of Alliteration, Syntax and Sales) Boxer drew polite applause at an outdoor rally of local Democrats as she reprised her talking points spiel about jobs for the fourth time that day.
But the most spontaneous, emotional ovation came when she let loose an oldie but goody line about protecting abortion rights: “This election is about who’s going to stand up for a woman’s right to choose.”
Answering Calbuzz questions in the candidate’s van on the way back to her Gulfstream III charter, Boxer elaborated on the issue, saying on the day before the new Field Poll came out that she’ll be helped among “independents and Republican women” by the hard line, pro-life stance of Fiorina. The Hurricane has said during the campaign that “I absolutely would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade if the opportunity presented itself.”
“Her view is so radical,” Boxer said. “It’s more radical than any other Republican woman in the Senate who opposes choice.”
Boxer’s comments also touched on a constellation of other, non-economic issues which offer her opportunities to exploit Fiorina’s positions among independents and moderate Republicans:
–Palin – Boxer expressed delight over Fiorina’s endorsement by the right-wing former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, which she views as a crucial signifier for voters who may not know much about iCarly: “It’s very important,” she said of the endorsement. “I’m glad she made that endorsement. The endorsement speaks volumes.”
--Climate change – Boxer emphasized her strong opposition to the proposed suspension of AB 32, California’s landmark greenhouse gas emissions legislation, which Fiorina views as “job killing” government over-regulation. Hurricane Carly also has expressed doubts about the science of climate change and characterized as “worrying about the weather” Boxer’s focus on the issue. “My opponent confuses climate and the weather,” said Babs.
–Gun control – Both in the interview and in her speech, Boxer recalled Fiorina’s Second Amendment purist pronouncement in the primary: “If you are on a suspected terrorist watch list, she supports your right to buy a gun.” And she contrasted her support of California’s assault weapons ban with Fiorina’s opposition to the measure.
Beyond these issues, she also attacked Fiorina over her support for expanded offshore oil drilling, another issue on which Boxer’s stance may gain support from independent and moderate voters.
“She’s with the ‘drill baby drill’ crowd – that’s why she got the endorsement of Sarah Palin.”
According to the Field Poll, Boxer’s favorability among voters has taken a serious hit in recent months — it’s now 41% favorable and 52% unfavorable, not much changed from 38-51% in March but down considerably from 48-39% in January. At the same time, Fiorina’s favorability has improved to 34-29%, from 20-22% in March and 16-18% in January.
Moreover, the proportion of voters who approve of Boxer’s performance as Senator has dropped lower than it’s been since February 2006 and now stands at 42% approve and 48% disapprove. These are not good numbers. Her approval rating among Republicans is 11-80%; among Democrats just 66-20% and among independents a negative 36-40%.
On the other hand, in a match-up with Fiorina, Boxer is — for the moment at least — holding her own among independents and moderates. While Boxer leads 75-17% among Democrats and Fiorina carries Republicans 83-10%, it’s Boxer who is leading among independents with 47-39%.
Likewise, while Boxer has 84% of the liberals who account for 23% of the voters and Fiorina has 80% of the conservatives who make up 36% of the electorate, Boxer leads by a healthy 53-34% among the moderates who comprise 41% of the voting population.
The Field Poll surveyed 1,005 likely voters, including a random sub-sample of 357 voters, June 22-July 5. The margin of error for questions asked of all voters is +/- 3.2% and for questions asked of the sub-sample (including favorability) it is +/- 5.5%. Calbuzz has been refused the opportunity to subscribe to the Field Poll and has obtained the results elsewhere.
The mail’s comin’ on the stagecoach tomorrow: As widely reported, Babs on her statewide odyssey unveiled some pretty good lines responding to Carly’s now-famous, snide and snotty open mic dis of Boxer’s hair: “I’ve decided that if everyone in California who’s ever had a bad hair day votes for me, I’ll win. I’m going for the bad hair vote.”
Too bad it took nearly four weeks to come up with a snappy rejoinder, putting her in a tie with Jerry Brown for the Geezer Response Time team award for campaign 2010
*(Upon passage of the stimulus bill, aka the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Boxer put out a press release that predicted the measure would save or create 400,000 jobs in California. She now acknowledges that she doesn’t know for sure how many jobs it’s generated. At times she cites a figure of 150,000, which she attributes to the governor’s office; at others she uses a figure of 340,000 contained in a report issued last April by the Council of Economic Advisers).