Friday, July 23, 2010

Lies, Damned Lies, And Polls

George Skelton has an interesting column in the Los Angeles Times today. After reviewing the latest Field Poll he concludes that Barbara Boxer is in a tough race with Carly Fiorina for the senate seat Boxer has held for a long time, primarily because the electorate in California has been hit with anti-incumbent fever.

But this, of course, is not a normal election year. Voters either are struggling financially or are worried they soon could be. California unemployment is hanging above 12%.

It's possible that stands on so-called social issues, even abortion, will not provide the litmus tests for voters that they did in Boxer's past reelection snoozers.

The three-term incumbent faces her toughest fight since she first was elected to the Senate from the House of Representatives in 1992 over conservative commentator Bruce Herschensohn. That was "the year of the woman." This is the year of the grump.

The latest Field Poll shows Boxer with a narrow lead, 47% to 44%, a tiny gain since March.

Fiorina, who out-conservatived her opponents in the GOP primary, hasn't moved from that stance: she is still a "proud pro-life conservative," one who would allow abortion only in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is at risk. That stance is hardly one that should resonate in California. The poll numbers Skelton references throughout his column, however, indicates that no single progressive issue will be determinative in this election because the economy in general, and unemployment in particular, is what concerns the voters.

That being said, Skelton then proceeds to outline the differences in the candidates, and by doing so signals to the Boxer campaign what he thinks should be its focus:

If voters look beneath the superficial slogans and sound bites, they will see that the two candidates do hold sharply contrasting views.

Fiorina supports more offshore oil drilling, the Iraq war, the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and Arizona's new law targeting illegal immigrants. Boxer opposes all.

Boxer favors a national ban on assault weapons, the president's timetable for troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, the federal stimulus package and California's anti-global-warming program to curb greenhouse gases. Fiorina opposes all.

If Sen. Boxer doesn't start running on those issues, and doesn't point out the outsourcing that went on at Hewlett-Packard during Fiorina's reign as CEO (a job from which she was fired), those poll numbers are going to stay close.

Congress will take its summer recess shortly, so Sen. Boxer can concentrate on the race. She might want to take a close look at Mr. Skelton's column when doing so.

And she just might want to send the columnist a thank-you note. He's done her a big favor by publishing the column.

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