It was a match for the ages: a three-term United States Senator against the former CEO of a Fortune 50 international corporation. California politicos had been looking forward to the highly anticipated debate between Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina. Last night, the two finally met for an hour-long debate that could be the only time voters get to compare the candidates side-by-side before casting their vote.
If there were one way to summarize the overall tenor of the debate, it would be this: Get Carly. As the two candidates were questioned by the journalists on the panel, the moderator, and questions submitted from voters, there was an unmistakable slant towards attacking Fiorina, while Boxer slid by almost unchallenged. Among the gems softballed to Boxer: You’ve been in office three terms, why not give someone else a chance? Is there any issue where you would challenge President Obama? And shouldn’t federal agriculture subsidies also go to smaller farms?
Contrast that to the pounding Fiorina took regarding her tenure at Hewlett Packard, whether she supports Proposition 8, whether she’s pro-life, and why she supports “tax cuts for the wealthiest.” Granted, each of these issues needs to be discussed during a serious debate. But the manner in which the questions were framed was decidedly biased against Fiorina and conservative principles in general.
During the clash, both candidates sought to draw a stark contrast between their positions. On first appearance, the contrast was clear when both entered the stage; Boxer in a subdued, simple gray pantsuit and Fiorina in an elegant blue skirt suit. Although it may be discounted as mere aesthetics, the outfit a politician wears at such a critical public appearance is always the topic of much discussion amongst consultants and campaign staff. Fiorina appeared feminine, stylish and classy, while Boxer appeared to have just stepped out of a mundane business meeting. Fiorina looked fresh and vibrant; Boxer’s appearance reflected the tired complacency of an incumbent.
As expected, jobs and the economy were the main focus of each candidate in their statements and responses to questions. While Boxer repeatedly assailed Fiorina for “shipping jobs overseas to China,” Fiorina reminded viewers that it was under Boxer’s watch that California’s unemployment numbers have risen to well over 12 percent—despite the massive $826 billion stimulus bill Boxer supported. Fiorina also addressed the matter of cutting jobs at HP by explaining that sometimes difficult decisions have to be made so that a company can be better off in the long run and create even more jobs. She’s had to make those tough decisions in the real world.