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Dateline Moraga: Live Blogging the Senate Debate

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Play-by-play below, but here’s the bottom line: Nobody “won” the debate which means Carly Fiorina did not do what she had to do — kneecap Barbara  Boxer or force her to make a mistake.

Fiorina, a smart, articulate and attractive candidate stood toe-to-toe with a United States Senator and handled herself with skill and grace.

Boxer defended her record in the U.S. Senate and pushed issues like choice, climate change and gun control into the debate that put Fiorina on the defensive.

The single matter that emerged that likely will resonate most: Fiorina’s record of laying off 30,000 workers as CEO of Hewlett-Packard — in Boxer’s terms (not entirely accurate) of shipping those jobs to China.

Her response — sometimes you have to cut some jobs in order to save others — sounded like an eerie echo of  the famous line from the Vietnam War: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” (That’s how it’s remembered even if it’s not exactly right.) And it wasn’t just a slip of the tongue — Fiorina said it in the debate and at her press conference afterwards as well.

We wonder if this will come back to haunt Fiorina: “This is the 21st Century — any job can go anywhere.” BTW, in the debate she said: “It’s an agonizing choice (for a CEO) to lose some jobs in order to save more.”

It was a clear contrast. Fiorina is a tough conservative who would overturn Roe v Wade if she had the opportunity, is opposed to California’s AB 32 climate-change law and would extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers.

Boxer is a die-hard liberal who is known as a partisan, pushes cap and trade legislation, would end the Bush tax cuts for the rich and is more worried about easing the way for illegal immigrants than she is about securing the U.S.-Mexico border.

Untested political newcomer versus career politician. Republican stalwart versus Democratic diehard.

The most baffling thing is this: Why won’t Fiorina, who sees AB 32 as a “job killer,” come out in support of Prop. 23 — which would gut the measure? Pushed at her press conference, she made all the arguments against Prop. 23 but refused to take a stand. All she would offer is that when it comes time to vote, she will take a position.

Also, what happened to term limits that Fiorina is so hot for? Never came up.

It was a lively debate, showed the ideological contrast between the candidates and gave viewers a chance to see both candidates talk and chew gum at the same time, so to speak. Carly was more tightly wound, but crisp; Boxer was more conversational but equally sharp on her attack points.

Boxer kept saying she’s enacted a thousand measures but could not refute Fiorina’s assertion that she’s only got her name on four bills. Not much for a 18-year Senator.

(Live blog begins here.)

Calbuzz went to the extraordinary expense of dispatching the entire National Affairs Desk to St. Mary’s College in Moraga (De La Salle Christian Brothers) to cover the Barbara Boxer-Carly Fiorina U.S. Senate debate – and has been promptly relegated, with the rest of the press corps, to watch the event on a giant TV while the real deal goes down across the way in the LeFevre Theatre.

Plenty of free parking here where it’s 97 degrees outside and TV correspondents are trying not to sweat on camera during their stand-ups.

Cookies too, thanks to the terrific St. Mary’s communications staff – chocolate chip, peanut butter, double chocolate and (ugh) raisin – along with a bunch of fruit that Calbuzz hasn’t the slightest interest in touching.

We’ll be live blogging the debate as soon as it starts in about 15 minutes.

6:57 p.m. KTVU, which is co-sponsoring the debate with the Chron and KQED-FM, just showed live shot of extremely sweaty protesters outside.

“Carly, no es mi amiga” vs. “Boxer, you’re fired.”

Inside the press room, Jon Fleischman of FlashReport, just called the debate for Fiorina.

7:00 – It’s on. Big hand for Carla Marincucci’s hair in the press room.

Boxer, wearing a gray pantsuit, is on the left. Fiorina, in a teal skirt suit, is on the right.

First opening to Carly: “I have lived the American dream.” Trying to give herself blue collar roots, even though her father was a law professor who was almost appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We need some common sense and problem solving ability in Washington, D.C.” First whack at Babs:  She’s been in D.C. forever and her policies have been disastrous. Very aggressive in taking on the incumbent.

Boxer: “I’ve enacted a thousand measures,” coming right back at Fiorina charge that she’s done nothing. Whack at Carly: I’m working to stop companies from shipping jobs overseas. And, oh yeah, Carly got fired and took $100 million in severance.

Great start.

Marinucci asks first question of Fiorina:

Carly says it’s all about jobs — tax cuts — Carla asks — small business owners are struggling — death tax — Boxer voted for taxes — to create jobs we need to make sure business is free from stangling regulation and taxation.

Boxer says 16,500 teachers got pink slips, what’s important than out children — my opponent called the bill a disgrace — but she doesn’t like it because we paid for it by stopping tax breaks from companies overseas.

Question 2: Scott Shafer asks Babs whether Iraq war “was worth it.” She says she opposed the war but voted for more money for troops and veterans. Credits Obama for getting out, and supports him in Afghanistan but supports hard time line to bring troops home “by 2011″

Carly staff is walking around the press room dropping off  “Debate Fact Sheet” on everybody’s work station, challenging BB’s earlier assertions.

Carly on Iraq: Boxer’s “rhetoric doesn’t match her record.” Attacks Boxer for not voting for body armor, and also hits on her on small business legislation speaking government-speak gibberish about “TARP Jr.” and “TARP Sr.”

Question about immigrants: Carly wants to educate everyone but she’s against amnesty for people here illegally –

Boxer says she’s proud of her record on veterans — says Carly called immigration reform “a distraction” — we need comprehensive immigration reform.

Question 4 comes on tape from a guy in Oakland named Tim Tam who wants to know why Boxer doesn’t give somebody else a chance after 28 years in the Senate. Barbara sez “there’s a clear choice” and turns it to hit Carly: “We don’t need those Wall Street values.”

Fiorina says Boxer “mischaracterizes my record” on shipping jobs overseas. “Agonizing choice to lose some jobs in order to save more.”

Next question from Tom Watson, retired HP executive who bashes Fiorina with her record of “right sourcing” jobs and saying that no one has “a God given right” to a job. Great question.

Carly is now listing all the countries in the world – not to mention “Texas and Brazil” about….something…she seems to have been caught a little off guard by this.

Strong comeback on jobs by Boxer noting that Fiorina has opposed every jobs bill that’s come up since she started running.

Carly asks Boxer about famous incident when she asked General not to call her “ma’am.” She gives same answer as Calbuzz previously supported reported.

Fiorina comes back to say that Boxer is using H-P “a treasure of California” as a “political football.”

Randy Shandobil the moderator tells both of them to stop going over time, and get to the point and answer the damn questions. Yay Randy.

Shafer asks about gay marriage. Fiorina says marriage should be “between a man and a woman.” Says that because voters had such a clear decision “not appropriate” for “a single judge” to overturn. Umm, isn’t that why we have three branches of government?

So says Boxer, noting that America has a system of checks and balances. She cites Justice Ron George’s opinion opposing Prop. 8.

Fiorina gnomes just dropped off fifth fact check – almost make you think they had them ready in advance.

Boxer is asked about bipartisanship — is she too partisan — she says he works with Republicans all the time — a time line for withdrawl from Afghanistan is one example.

Carly says Barbara is long on talk and short on achievement — one of the most bitterly partisan — only has four bills with her name on them –

Carla asks about Roe v Wade — I am pro life, because of my personal experiences, her husband’s mother was told to abort him for health reasons — recognize that not everyone agrees with me — I am comfortable funding for adult stem cell research — but if embryos are produced for destruction then she’s opposed — says Boxer’s positions are extreme — has said a baby doesn’t have rights until it leaves the hospital –

Randy — Roe v Wade — she acknowledges she would overturn if she had the opportunity.

Boxer says she respects people’s — says Fiorina would criminalize women and doctors — says this is not about personal views.

Re. the “four bills” says she’s approved 1,000 Boxer provisions — you can see them online.

Shafer asks when Dems are going to stop blaming Bush and Rep congress for economic woes. Boxer says “we have” and are working on it…now she’s talking about the good old Clinton years and is blaming Bush for “the worst job creation record since Herbert Hoover.” “We didn’t get here overnight and we’re not going to solve it overnight.”

Fiorina: “Recovery summer has become the summer of despair in California.” She hits Boxer for voting for stimulus bill which she says “has failed.” Good riff on Boxer record of voting against balanced budget amendments: “Her record is crystal clear.”

Fiorina is asked if she thinks global warming is real or just a problem with the weather as she said in an ad — Carly says the ad was about military security — says we need a national and comprehensive energy bill — not answering whether she’s for Prop. 23 — we need to fund energy R&D — we cannot put bills in place that punish energy—

Randy re asks — Prop 23 — says her focus is on national policy — says she hasn’t taken a position — AB 32 is a job killer.

Boxer — if you cant take a stand on Prop 23, I don’t know what you will take a stand on — it’s a critical issue — my opponents is used to creating jobs in China, Germany, etc. – which would be the result of overturning AB 32 — “no bill I ever wrote superseded CA law.”

St. Mary’ student asks about ag policy. Zzzzz.

Fiorina now hitting BB on water – claims Babs “pressured” Feinstein to drop an amendment…

Viewer question – why do you think it’s a good idea for people on terrorist no fly list to have guns – what – are you nuts?

CF: “The no fly list isn’t particularly well managed.” We should not be taking constitutional rights away from citizens and giving them to terrorists – and that’s exactly what Barbara Boxer wants to do.”

BB: “It’s hard to know where to start.” Boxer trumpets her legislation letting pilots be armed.” Recalls watching debate where Fiorina said this and says Tom Campbell get excited “for the first time in his life.”

“Oh my goodness,” Boxer says Campbell said.

How about the assault weapons ban? Fiorina says it’s far too broad…Babs says dumping it “makes no sense at all.” Big wet kiss to Difi for sponsoring the bill.

Closing statements:

Carly: She’s been struck by the “beauty” of California. Also fear, anxiety and uncertainty. Recounts alleged anecdotal conversations with people who don’t like regulation…very sappy yarn about some lady who said she’d never voted but registered to vote for Carly and “don’t forget us.” Oy. She’s for average people who “give a lot and ask for a little.”

Barbara: “This a very clear choice.” I’m fighting for jobs and she laid off 30K people and sent jobs to China. Made in America vs. Made in China. Someone fighting for tax cuts for middle class and someone fighting for CEOs and billionaires. Clean energy vs someone supported by big oil and big coal. Pro-choice – Fiorina would “turn a woman into a criminal” for having an abortion…Offshore oil. I fought for Wall Street reform and she acts “just like a Wall Street CEO.”

Randy apologizes for not getting to more questions. No worries man, good work.

Babs vs. Carly: Choice Will Be a Crucial Difference

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

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).