Boxer/Fiorina Debate Gets Nasty

Posted: Sep 02, 2010 8:46 AM
Three term Senator Barbara "M'am" Boxer and former HP CEO Carly Fiorina squared off at St. Mary's College last night for their first debate.  With polls showing a dead heat, the affair became a knock-down, drag-out slugfest from start to finish--getting nasty and personal at times.  If you have the time, the full video is posted HERE.  If not, here's my recap and analysis:

Boxer incessantly attacked Fiorina's "Wall Street Values," seemed to relish mentioning her opponent's forced resignation at HP, bashed her shipment of jobs overseas (while ignoring, of course, her own job-killing Cap & Trade bill), and criticized Fiorina's generous severance package--implying it was too large and undeserved.

Fiorina hammered away at California's miserable economic numbers, bemoaned Boxer's hyper-partisanship, and mocked her scant record of accomplishment after 28 years in Washington.  (Boxer's lame self-defense on the last point was that her name appears on over 1,000 "provisions."  Impressed?)

Economic issues are paramount this election cycle, and they are in Fiorina's wheelhouse.  She excelled, although she got a little technical and jargony at times.  Boxer's only countermeasures were to engage in class warfare and tout the raft of "jobs" bills she's voted for.  Fiorina did a nice job of reminding viewers of just how effective those bills have been.  Boxer's comfort zone should have been on social issues, but Fiorina performed ably on those questions, offering reasonable answers on immigration, marriage, abortion, and guns while pointing out her opponent's extremism on issues like late term abortion. 

One telling exchange came near the end, when Fiorina defended her position against banning all Americans on the unwieldy "no-fly list" from owning firearms.  Fiorina said the list wasn't reliable or comprehensive, and that the federal government ought not strip American citizens of their rights (referring to the 2nd Amendment) while extending Constitutional rights to terrorists, which Senator Boxer supports.  As good as her answer was, Boxer's retort was equally bad.  She appeared to confuse the no-fly list with the terrorist watch list, and also seemed to conflate gun ownership with the ability to carry a gun onto a plane.  She mangled it.

The only respite from the relentless mutual attacks came in Fiorina's closing statement, which was poised, strong, and positive.  Boxer then used her 2-minute close to caricature her opponent's positions beyond recognition.

Overall, I thought Fiorina was polished, informed, thoughtful, and extremely well prepared.  Perhaps too well prepared, as Gabriel Malor suggests; Indeed, Fiorina seemed to possess near-encyclopedic knowledge of Boxer's voting record and sometimes lost sight of the bigger picture in her answers. 

Boxer certainly had a few attack lines memorized, but they paled in comparison to Fiorina's rapid-fire recitation of facts, specific votes, and statistics.  I believe most viewers walked away from last night's debate viewing Carly Fiorina as a capable woman who's more than just a plausible officeholder, but well qualified to serve in the US Senate.  Barbara Boxer came across as the hackish, arrogant bully many Americans have come to know and detest. 

A win for the challenger, in my book.  We'll see if Californians agree.