Boxer vs. Fiorina

Boxer vs. Fiorina


Jan Brewer’s cringe inducing debate performance received more media attention, but there was another debate on Wednesday night that may have been more important. Carly Fiorina and Barbara Boxer met for their first (and potentially only) debate of the election season. It is one of the “dirty dozen” contests that will determine whether the GOP retakes the majority in the Senate.

Democrats enjoy a huge advantage in statewide California elections. In 2008, 44% registered Democratic, 31% registered Republican and 20% Independent (Decline to State). Despite the uneven playing field, Fiorina and Boxer were polling in a dead heat going into the debate. I generally have very low expectations for political debates, and perhaps that is why I was pleasantly surprised.

My impressions: Both candidates acquitted themselves well and were very well prepared. It was a good debate. A sample clip:

They clearly had different objectives, and I think they both accomplished what they set out to do. With her big registration advantage, Boxer just needed to play to her base. California voters already know Boxer and her shtick. She just needed to be the senator her base expects and not make mistakes. If she can get the Democrats off their collective asses and voting in force, she should win this going away. But this year, with 60 days to go, with Democrats feeling lethargic and uninspired, that appears to be a mighty big “if”.

Fiorina had more at stake in this debate, as I suspect this was the first time that many California voters started to pay attention to this election. This was Fiorina’s chance to make a first impression on voters who do not know her well. She needed to look senatorial, competent, and in command of the issues facing the state. Debates are as much about TV, presence and image as they are about issues. From that perspective, she knocked it out of the park. She came across as smart, articulate and tough with a detailed understanding of the issues – basically a strong business woman. Fiorina could have easily blown her chances with a stumble in this debate, but instead she inspired confidence.

Most post-mortems called it close or a draw. I’m guessing she was good enough for a bump in the polls that will put her in the lead.

That said, there was one major issue that has emerged in this contest that I did not feel qualified to judge. So I asked my wife who had the better hair. She did not hesitate – Carly. Done deal. Carly wins this round.

In other election news, the blogosphere was abuzz with Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball Prognostication:

“In the Senate, we now believe the GOP will do a bit better than our long-time prediction of +7 seats. Republicans have an outside shot at winning full control (+10), but are more likely to end up with +8 (or maybe +9, at which point it will be interesting to see how senators such as Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and others react). GOP leaders themselves did not believe such a result was truly possible just a few months ago. If the Republican wave on November 2 is as large as some polls are suggesting it may be, then the surprise on election night could be a full GOP takeover. Since World War II, the House of Representatives has flipped parties on six occasions (1946, 1948, 1952, 1954, 1994, and 2006). Every time, the Senate flipped too, even when it had not been predicted to do so. These few examples do not create an iron law of politics, but they do suggest an electoral tendency.”

Hmmm. Seems like I recently read something similar.

  • Alistair


    The reason why the GOP may end up taking over the house & the senate is because some of my left progressive are just as bad as some from the right. The all seem to have the same common cause, that their movement becomes the new order in the American people’s lives and when they don’t get their way the stay home during their election. Perfect example the and is already taking dumping the President for not going far left. Yet the Presidents number just for the day is still favorable than past Presidents at this point. What both the left & the right don’t understand is this that the nation does not like partisan politics they want both Parties to come up with solutions to solve problems facing America’s future. I want the Democrats maintain both the house and the senate. The good senerio would be that if the Democrats barely hold on the House the President can reach out to Blue Dog Democrats and Moderate Republicans in the house to come up with bi-partisan bill. Same thing with Democrat Senators and Moderate Republicans. Remember a lot of Centrist Democrats Senators from Kent Conrad, Max Bacus, Ben Nelson and a lot of Blue Dogs endorse President Obama during the 2008 Presidential election so he is not beholding to a lot of liberal causes.

  • kranky kritter

    She just needed to be the senator her base expects and not make mistakes. If she can get the Democrats off their collective asses and voting in force, she should win this going away.

    I think that this tried and true “run out the clock, business as usual, nothing to see, move along” strategy is ill-fitted to current public sentiment.

    Lacking any knowledge of the nature of this race or the caliber of Boxer’s oppenent, It would be silly for me to make any kind of forecast or specific comment about either candidate. But in general, I think incumbents this fall are well-served when they find positive and useful ways to acknowledge widespread public dissatisfaction. If your opponent happens to be a flawed and one-dimensional ideologue, maybe you can win by sticking to the politics 101 playbook.

    But if you find yourself in a real dogfight, you need something that doesn’t make you look like business as usual. That approach is EXACTLY why Martha Coakley faltered so very badly against Scott Brown this spring. She had no real appreciation of what the public sentiment was, and so she didn’t speak to it.

    People want to hear longstanding incumbents take their back-patting schtick down a serious road that includes at least a nod at some sort of a mea culpa combined with a serious commitment to kick it up a notch in the right direction:

    I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I KNOW that I’ve done a lot of good fighting for the people of this state. I’m CERTAIN that I’ve helped a lot of people who came to me over the years. And I could go the route of parading a bunch of them before you right now….[pause, reflective glance down or up and away].

    But times are pretty hard right now, and I understand that folks really, really, don’t want to listen to me patting myself on the back. We ALL need to do better. A LOT better. _I_ need to do better… .

    I get it. Congress hasn’t been getting it done. And I just don’t want to stand here and crow about the things we have managed to get done. No matter how proud I might be of them, no matter how hard I feel I’ve worked to make them happen. Because I’ve been listening to the people of this state. And I understand that whatever we’ve done, it hasn’t been enough. It hasn’t been wise enough, hard enough, careful enough, focused enough, serious enough.

    People have been telling me that they’re tired of the noise, and the bluster, and the blamestorming. And the bullshine. I’m asking for your vote. And if you send me back to congress, I promise that I’ll keep fighting for this state. And you won’t hear bluster and bullshine and blamestorming from me. I promise that if you send me back to washington, that the next time you look at Washington, you won’t hear blowhard noise. Instead, you’ll see nothing but asses and elbows. Hard work at finding real solutions. etc etc

    That’s what people want to hear.