With 14 days until the midterm elections, California Sen. Barbara Boxer has gone on the offensive after finding herself in a tough re-election campaign that many GOP strategists see as a must-win to take control of the Senate.
The latest polling still shows Boxer with a slight edge over her Republican challenger Carly Fiorina, leading 48 percent to 44 percent, but Fiorina has managed to stay within the margin of error for most of the campaign season. These last few weeks, the heated rhetoric from both campaigns has increased and political heavyweights have made numerous visits to the state to get the base motivated to vote for their party’s candidate.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have been out to stump on Boxer’s behalf and Obama is coming back to Los Angeles on Friday to fundraise for her again. Sen. John McCain spoke at a rally on Saturday in support of Fiorina.
As the election gets closer, Boxer has stepped up her claims that Fiorina is too extreme for California, while Fiorina has pushed back and has attempted to paint Boxer as being a die-hard liberal.
In an effort to keep her seat, Boxer has attacked Fiorina’s positions on over-turning Roe v. Wade if given the opportunity, allowing people on the no-fly list to purchase guns and expanding oil drilling. She also has criticized Fiorina for laying-off thousands of workers and shipping the jobs overseas during her tenure as CEO of Hewlett-Packard all while taking millions of dollars in a severance bonus.
Boxer’s strategy to focus on Fiorina’s record is a smart one, according to election observers. They agree painting her as an extreme conservative could be critical in obtaining the moderate Democratic and independent voters.
“Carly’s stand on issues for most California voters is antithetical,” Barbara O’Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics & Media at California State University-Sacramento, said. “She’s so hard-line on so many things that are part of the California dream and more representative of California voters. If they resort to issues, she’s dead.”
Fiorina’s strategy has been to focus on Boxer’s 28-year career on Capitol Hill – including her 10 years of representing Marin and Sonoma counties in the House. She has attacked Boxer’s record on votes against the military and that she has had trouble moving climate change legislation through the Environment and Public Works Committee that she chairs.
Election observers have pointed out, however, that Fiorina’s strategy of talking about Boxer’s record is a much harder sell than Boxer talking about Fiorina’s because most times California media coverage focuses more on Sacramento politics than Washington politics.
“Boxer’s positions in D.C. are not even visible to voters in California,” Phil Trounstine, co-editor and co-publisher of the CalBuzz political blog, said. “That’s much more of a Beltway identifier than it would be a California identifier.”
Boxer said her re-election campaign has been the “most intensive race I’ve ever had,” and while the political winds might signal a tremendous amount of Republican gains, right now California’s race for the Senate is Boxer’s to lose.
Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by about 13 to 14 points. Based on that alone, Fiorina would need her Republican supporters to head to the polls while the majority of the Democrats stay home – something that, in one of the bluest states in the union, is a safe bet in saying will not happen.
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