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Fiorina Takes Her Message To California's Middle

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Fiorina Takes Her Message To California's Middle

Politics

Fiorina Takes Her Message To California's Middle

Fiorina Takes Her Message To California's Middle

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The Two-Way

The race for the Senate in California is a tight one. Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer faces a challenge from HP executive Carly Fiorina. Melissa Block talks with Fiorina about her political history, her time as CEO of HP and her endorsement from Tea Party groups.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

President Obama visited Los Angeles today to campaign for Senator Barbara Boxer. She is in a tough reelection fight against former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. Fiorina's politics are conservative. She has the support of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Movement.

The latest polls show the incumbent, Senator Boxer, with only a slight lead. But California has 2.3 million more registered Democrats than Republicans, and that has forced Fiorina to try to sell her message to the state's vast political middle.

Ms. CARLY FIORINA (Republican Senate Nominee, California): The thing that a lot of people don't realize about California is 25 percent of the electorate now are swing voters. And so we are doing extremely well with swing voters who are focused on jobs. They are focused on out of control government spending. And frankly they're focused on the fact that Barbara Boxer has been in Washington, D.C. for 28 years. She has been bitterly partisan and ineffective.

BLOCK: What about swing voters, though, who are concerned not just with jobs, as you mentioned, but with social issues? And let's take one: the issue of abortion. You have said you would support overturning Roe vs. Wade if the opportunity arose, which is out of step with the views of about seven out of 10 Californians who favor abortion rights.

Ms. FIORINA: Well, I certainly understand and respect that not everyone shares my views. And I also believe that Barbara Boxer is irresponsible when she throws around baseless accusations that I want to criminalize abortion. Nothing could be further from the truth. People will disagree on the social issues. That's why I think they should be decided at a state level.

On the other hand, people agree that there are other issues that also matter. California has a 12.4 percent unemployment rate. And our debt levels are skyrocketing. Seventy-eight percent of Californians believe our nation is headed in the wrong direction.

BLOCK: Carly Fiorina, and in one of your recent ads, you tell voters in California: I will reach across the aisle and oppose my party if needed. Can you give a recent example of something where you would've voted with the Democrats, not with the Republicans in Congress?

Ms. FIORINA: Well, I believe we should have extended unemployment benefits. Most Republicans in the Senate voted in the opposite way.

Look, I don't owe the Republican Party anything. I've never run for public office before. I am running now because I think our state and our nation are at a pivotal point.

BLOCK: You mentioned that this is your first run for office. Records also show that you have voted just one out of four times over the last ten years in elections there in California. Couldn't a voter look at that and say, you have not been engaged as a citizen on very big issues facing your state in the most basic way, by simply showing up to vote?

Ms. FIORINA: Absolutely. And I make no excuses for that. I should've voted. I didn't and like many people, I felt disengaged from the political process. As I continue to work in the private sector, I began to realize how much every business and every family is affected by the political process. And suffice it to say that I'm all in now.

BLOCK: Ms. Fiorina, let's talk about your tenure as the CEO of HP. You were fired by the board, and ads from your opponent, Senator Boxer, point to 30,000 HP jobs that were lost in your time there. And we hear in the ad, HP, former HP workers who say their jobs were shipped to China and India while they say you got five corporate jets.

And I read an interview where you didn't dispute that 30,000 job loss number back in 2006. You said we laid off over 30,000 people. Why should voters in California look at that and your experience at HP and see you as the solution to California's job troubles?

Ms. FIORINA: Well, first let me say that there are several charges in that ad that are baseless and inaccurate and we have fact-checked that ad and all that information is available to people on our website. But to the heart of your question, companies go through tough times. Every small business in this state is going through a tough time right now. But net net we created jobs.

It is the height of hypocrisy for Barbara Boxer to attack me for outsourcing jobs for two reasons: One, because she has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from companies that range from Cisco to Time Warner, who have also outsourced jobs. But secondly, it's the height of hypocrisy because it is policies that she has pursued that are destroyed jobs in the state of California.

BLOCK: I've read an independent fact-checking review of Barbara Boxer's ad from PolitiFact.com and they rate it mostly true. They say when you talk about a net net of jobs created, a lot of those were from existing jobs in companies that HP acquired. And the jobs that were created, no sense of how many were in this country and how many were overseas.

Ms. FIORINA: Well, let me just say that when you're growing we doubled the size of our company from 44 billion to 88 billion. We were growing that $88 billion at nine percent. That is after weathering the dotcom bust and that kind of growth fortunately, happily, required us to add R and D jobs. Many of those were in the state of California, to add sales jobs, many of those throughout the nation.

Barbara Boxer does not understand that. She has never met a payroll, has never created a job, and that's what we need to do now, create jobs in the private sector.

BLOCK: Carly Fiorina, thank you very much.

Ms. FIORINA: Thank you so much. I really enjoyed it.

BLOCK: Carly Fiorina, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in California. We should note we've also invited her opponent, Senator Barbara Boxer, to appear on our program.

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