Sen. Barbara Boxer and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina clashed Wednesday night in their first debate, as the political novice tries to unseat the longtime senator with 28 years in Washington. Boxer (D) and Fiorina (R) sparred on their records, agreed on some social issues but provided the sharpest contrast when it came to the economy and jobs. Boxer went after Fiorina’s HP record while Fiorina attacked Boxer as a liberal who has accomplished little despite her time in Washington.
Debate moderators pressed Fiorina on her abortion rights stance after she tried to deflect and said the main issue was jobs. She explained her personal reasons for being pro-life, and admitted, “not everybody agrees with me on this.”
Then there was a moment that will likely be spliced into a Boxer ad for broadcast on the majority pro-choice state’s airwaves.
The moderator asked Fiorina — after she tried to change the subject to stem cell research — to state whether she would overturn Roe v. Wade. “If there were an opportunity,” Fiorina said, adding quickly, “It is not an issue that I’m running on.” Fiorina said she is a “strong believer in states rights” and that California voters have made their decisions on the right to choose so, “I am prepared to trust the voters’ judgment.”
But the majority of the hour-long debate focused on economic issues.
“She shipped 30,000 jobs overseas,” Boxer said during their debate, hosted by local television stations and broadcast on C-SPAN. Boxer asked, “What did she do to show any sacrifice,” since Fiorina took a hefty golden parachute after the HP board fired her.
“This is a very clear choice … between someone who is fighting for jobs day in and day out
versus someone who, when she had the chance, laid off 30,000 workers,” Boxer said. She said Fiorina was “proud of time at HP when she stamped ‘Made in China,’ ‘Made in India on her products,” and that her rival is “fighting for the wealthy, wealthy few.”
Fiorina said she supports permanently extending the Bush tax cuts, arguing the majority of them went to the middle class and small business owners. Most Democrats (including President Obama) oppose extending them for the wealthiest Americans, and say it’s disingenuous to suggest rich people are the same as small business owners.
Boxer countered that Fiorina opposes pending Senate bills to help small businesses and cited her opposition to financial reform.
Fiorina repeated several times that Boxer has spent “28 years in Washington,” and suggested she was the solution to bring change to Congress. Boxer is “long on talk and very short on achievement,” Fiorina said.
Boxer is “one of the most bitterly partisan members of the U.S. Senate,” she said.
Asked where she disagrees with Obama, Boxer said she signed onto a bill by Sen. Russ Feingold requiring the president set clear timelines for his withdrawal plan from Afghanistan. “It’s important to send that signal,” Boxer said. She also said she’d like to see Obama name Elizabeth Warren to the new Consumer Financial Protection Board.
In an appeal to California’s generally more socially liberal voters, Fiorina noted that she supports repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, backs civil unions but opposes gay marriage, and would vote for the DREAM Act allowing illegal immigrant children who stay in school a pathway to citizenship. (She added, “Let me very quickly say, I do not support amnesty.”)
As she has throughout the campaign, Fiorina defended her record, saying that in business, “sometimes have to make the agonizing choice to lose some jobs to save more.” Fiorina also told Boxer it was a “shame” she was using HP, a “treasure” to the Golden State, as a political football.
The panel asked Boxer about the conservative catnip video clip showing her insisting Brigadier Gen. Michael Walsh of the Army Corps of Engineers call her senator’ and not “ma’am.” Boxer said she called him after the hearing to ask if she owed him an apology, and that the general said no.
The TPM Poll Average of this race Boxer 46.3% to Fiorina 43.6%.
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