Boxer                           Fiorina

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Barbara Boxer is a staunch supporter of President Obama’s policies. Carly Fiorina sees tax cuts and lower federal spending as the way to fix the economy.

By Maeve Reston, Los Angeles Times
October 10, 2010

In an election year when voters have soured on their leaders and are deeply anxious about the glacial pace of economic recovery, the two candidates vying for California’s U.S. Senate seat have offered sharply different visions for the federal government’s role in guiding the country out of recession, as well as disagreeing on almost everything else.

For Republican candidate Carly Fiorina, the answer to the country’s economic woes lies in a generous round of new tax cuts, easing regulation on small businesses and slashing federal spending to a level that several budget analysts said would dramatically scale back the role the government plays in the lives of most Americans.

“We can’t get our economy going again, we can’t help people live the American dream if we continue to crush businesses as we are doing today,” the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive told a group of Latino business people Tuesday in San Diego, where she accused her Democratic opponent, Barbara Boxer, of doing “nothing to help the people of California.”

“We have to fight unaccountable, out of control people in Washington, D.C., who are chewing up our children’s and our grandchildren’s future.”

Boxer, in turn, has cast Fiorina’s approach as a return to the policies of the George W. Bush era that would favor millionaires over the middle class. She has framed the race as a contest between a champion for struggling Californians and a ruthless former executive who fired thousands of workers and shipped American jobs overseas. While other Democratic candidates across the country have distanced themselves from the policies of the Obama administration, Boxer has been their staunchest defender — making the success stories of programs like the stimulus a daily theme of her campaign, even as her rival has mocked the program as a failure.

“We are coming out of some deep and dark economic times and we cannot go back to the policies that put us there in the first place,” Boxer told supporters recently in Laguna Woods. “If ever our state needed a fighter for the middle class…it’s right now, this year, this time.”

The race is widely viewed as Boxer’s toughest after two previous contests in which she won by double-digit margins. (She won her seat for the first time by single digits). Fiorina, a political newcomer, emerged from a three-way primary race as a disciplined campaigner with a compelling tale about how she rose from being a secretary and law school dropout to become the first female leader of a Fortune 20 company. Her wealth, which has been estimated at as much as $121 million, was viewed as a real threat to Boxer.

The two candidates remained in a dead heat for most of the summer. But Fiorina began sliding in the polls shortly after Boxer aired an ad chronicling the 30,000 layoffs under Fiorina’s tenure at H-P.

Fiorina has insisted the drop in the polls was temporary, a result of Boxer unloading millions of dollars of negative ads against her that went unanswered for a time. But recent polls also show that many voters still don’t know Fiorina, a significant hurdle at a time when Boxer is seeking to define the Republican on television.

For all of Boxer’s predictions about the millions Fiorina would pour into the race — there is scant evidence yet of a major personal investment by Fiorina beyond the $5.5 million she lent to her primary campaign. Even in the first full week that both Boxer and Fiorina were running ads on television, the three-term senator maintained a four-to-one advantage, according to an analysis by the Nielsen Co.

Fiorina has kept the pressure on by outpacing Boxer in events around the state and using the talk radio circuit to make her case that Boxer is an ineffective lawmaker who has frittered away her time on ideological causes while neglecting California’s more practical needs.

Both women have seemed to relish the stark ideological differences between them. Unlike other Republican candidates who have courted California’s middle-of-the-road voters by moderating their positions after the primary, Fiorina has not wavered in her conservatism and has portrayed Boxer as a liberal zealot.

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