PASADENA -- The second debate between Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and Republican challenger Carly Fiorina erupted Wednesday into charges that each candidate was too extreme for California.
The two women took contrasting stands on abortion, health care reform and climate change legislation.
Still, Boxer and Fiorina struck a less combative tone than during their first debate held Sept. 1, where they spoke just a few feet away from each other on stage at St. Mary's College in the East Bay town of Moraga.
This time, the candidates debated about 2,600 miles apart, with Boxer in a National Public Radio studio in Washington, D.C., and Fiorina at public radio station KPCC-FM in Pasadena. The debate was broadcast on public radio stations statewide.
Debate moderators Patt Morrison and Gabriel Lerner frequently interrupted the candidates' attempts to recite talking points and attacks, so much so that some of the afternoon's most animated exchanges were between the candidates and their moderators.
Boxer repeated criticism of Fiorina, which she used to her advantage during the first debate, that the Republican former chief executive of tech company Hewlett-Packard had shipped thousands of jobs overseas.
Boxer has also highlighted Fiorina's corporate record in her TV commercials.
Recent polls show Boxer building a slight lead over Fiorina, and the Democrat claims a healthy fund-raising advantage over her opponent.
When Lerner asked Boxer Wednesday to stop talking about Hewlett-Packard, the three-term senator responded, "Wages are set by the private sector. The fact is (Fiorina) is still supporting tax breaks to companies who shift jobs overseas. So this is a very relevant conversation."
Boxer said she supported ending tax breaks for U.S. companies that move jobs overseas and backed climate change legislation that she said would stimulate the creation of green jobs.
Some of the clearest differences and most heated debate between the two candidates centered on hot-button issues such as abortion, the environment and health care reform.
Fiorina said she was against abortion but refuted Boxer's charges that she wanted to "criminalize" women seeking abortions.
Asked about the distinction during a news conference after the debate, Fiorina declined to explain how being against abortion was not the same as wanting to criminalize the practice.
"Barbara Boxer engages frequently in a shocking misrepresentation of my record but nowhere is that more unconscionable than in her assertion that I support the criminalization of abortion," Fiorina said during the debate.
The Republican added later that Boxer was trying "to change the subject from her own extreme views, which are that a baby doesn't have rights until it leaves the hospital."