Fiorina's Challenge: Keep All Eyes on Boxer
Conventional wisdom is this is the year of the challenger and incumbents are running scared.
What's unclear is whether that will extend to former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina in her bid to knock off longtime liberal Senator Barbara Boxer in California.
By all accounts, Fiorina is running a by-the-book outsider business-person's campaign and, so far, she's tied with Boxer (which is pretty good in left-leaning California). Much like corporate boardroom barons turned successful pols Mitt Romney and John Corzine, Fiorina is saying insiders could benefit from a little bit of outsider, that in a jobs-economy focus, taxpayers deserve someone on their side who knows how to create jobs, balance a budget and manage a payroll.
All these are good messages when jobs, the economy and taxes are weighing as the top issues in poll after poll.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the ballot box: Boxer is girding for a fight.
On NPR, Boxer campaign manager Rose Kapolczynski said "Carly Fiorina has said she's happy to run on her record at Hewlett-Packard, and we're taking her up on that."
Boxer's campaign manager told the radio network you can expect to hear the senator talking about Fiorina doing such things as "laying off workers, shipping jobs overseas, while taking extravagant salary and perks for herself."
And so Boxer is running the classic populist campaign against the boardroom suit. Romney, who in many ways is Fiorina's godfather in politics, can teach Carly a few things about that. Romney's first run at office, the Senate, was felled in 1994 by a an even bigger liberal lion than Boxer, Ted Kennedy.
Kennedy's ad campaign and rhetoric about Romney laying off paper mill workers at Ampad helped sink the campaign - a valuable lesson Romney learned from and won from by being better prepared in 2002 when he ran for Massachusetts Governor.
So Carly's charge: Keep the campaign about Boxer at all costs. And, in the meantime, better prep a good defense.