Posting just a couple of snapshots for now. I've gotta run a quick errand and I'll update and revise into a full report later (lots of MSM outlets on hand, so I'm interested to see how they spin this):
UPDATE: Okay, back now. The top photo above shows Chuck DeVore and Tom Campbell waiting for the debate to begin. At the second Campbell chats with Carly Fiorina during one of the commercial breaks.
There's an AP report up at SF Chronicle, "GOP candidates for Senate debate for last time."
I learned my lesson from John & Ken's Sheriff Arpaio show last month (small venue). I got over to the Ayers Hotel in Costa Mesa at about 12:30pm. Carly supporters had reserved the first half-dozen rows, but the cool John and Ken set-up guys told me to sit anywhere. Maeve Reston from the Los Angeles Times was seated near the front. I introduced myself. She was holding a seat for Robin Abcarian:
Ms. Reston has a surprising piece at today's LAT, by the way: "Conservatives Ramp Up Attacks on Campbell Over His Moderate Social Views."
I spoke with Ms. Abcarian when she arrived. I'm hoping it was off the record, since I didn't have too much supportive to say for Carly Fiorina (although I mentioned I'd support Fiorina if she wins the primary).
Here's Campbell just minutes before the debate began. All that you've heard about him --- amicable, contemplative, scholarly --- is true. Sitting in front, I quietly nodded hello and he nodded back:
John Kobylt opened the debate with a question on immigration for Carly Fiorina, seen here responding. She's got a standard line, "The federal government must do its job and secure the border." And there's not too much difference among the candidates on immigration and not too many sparks flew at this point.
DeVore's got rock-solid credentials on illegal immigration. He hammered Barbara Boxer and the Obama administration, charging the Democrats with the politics of amnesty. DeVore told the audience that in 2006 he "led the walkout" in the California Legislature against then-President Vicente Fox of Mexico.
That's John Kobylt below moderating the panel. Before wrapping up, he gave each candidate a minute to speak on their top issues. Earlier Carly Fiorina had come under fire from both Campbell and DeVore for her role in the 2008 financial bailout (she was 2008 GOP presidential nominee John McCain's top economic advisor). She spoke up vigorously in defense of active government action, arguing that the U.S. had to "get credit flowing." And she shifted to sloganeering when she suggested that "what we need in Washington is someone who understands how the economy works." She reiterated this point (with minor variations) for the remainder of her talk. And she concluded by rebutting DeVore's attack on her support in 2000 for California's Proposition 26, arguing that the measure would have made vital investments in state education modernization. [And see Robin Abcarian and Maeve Reston's surprisingly fair write-up below] Interestingly, Carly Fiorina reminds me of Hillary Clinton in 2008 --- like Clinton previously, Fiorina clearly adopts the (somewhat annoying and ultimately ruinous) stance of the putative frontrunner. Fiorina was cordial to those in the front rows, as well as John and Ken and the KFI crew, but again she's got that air of inevitability that's dangerous to have in electoral politics. That said, I came away impressed, despite Fiorina's long history as a gender-mongering RINO.
The room held at least 150 people not counting those standing at back. At the picture below, that's Diane DeVore leaning foward at right, in purple, talking to her daughters, "The DeVorettes." Also, right behind the DeVores is my good friend Frances Akhavi of Constitution and Country, a conservative interest group in Orange County.
Folks left pretty quickly, although the DeVores, O.C. locals, posed for pics with the platoon of conservative activists hoisting "Honk for Chuck" signs along Bristol Street :
See also Robin Abcarian and Maeve Reston, at LAT, "Republican candidates spar in U.S. Senate debate":
With two weeks to go until the June 8 primary, and more than one-third of Republican voters still undecided, the candidates were more willing to pull the gloves off than they were earlier this month when they met at the Museum of Tolerance for a more restrained debate.Be sure to RTWT.
This time, Campbell attacked Fiorina for her sparse voting record and questioned her party loyalty. DeVore pounded Fiorina for supporting a proposition that would have made it easier to pass school bonds. Fiorina chided Campbell for backing tax increases to help balance the state’s budget.
Campbell and DeVore also ganged up on Fiorina, whose spotty voting record has left her open to accusations of less-than-stellar citizenship. DeVore got in a two-fer when he noted that in 2000, while Fiorina was chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, she co-authored an op-ed with Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr calling for voters to pass Proposition 26, which would have changed one of the tenets of Proposition 13 by lowering the constitutional requirement to pass school bonds from a two-thirds vote to a simple majority of the electorate. “And you didn’t even bother voting in the election in which it was defeated narrowly!” he exclaimed.