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For second Boxer-Fiorina debate, most of the pressure is off

California Senate candidates go head to head – but not face to face – Wednesday in their second debate. For the radio-only event, Carly Fiorina will be in L.A. Barbara Boxer will be in a D.C. studio.

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Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer (l.) shakes hands with Republican Carly Fiorina before a debate at St. Mary's College in Moraga, Calif., Sept. 1.

Jeff Chiu/AP

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Call it “debate light.”

As Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) and challenger Carly Fiorina hold their second debate – this one only on radio and to a limited audience – most of the pressure of a live TV encounter is off, say experts.

The debate Wednesday, on local public-radio affiliate KPCC from 1-2 p.m. PDT, will be co-moderated by La Opinion’s Metro editor Gabriel Lerner and Patt Morrison, a well-known local print and radio journalist. Ms. Fiorina will be in the studio with the moderators, and Senator Boxer will be in a Washington, D.C., studio.

“All they have to do is not get caught in any kind of major gaffe, not get prickly or explode.... The candidates have all the control anyone could ask for,” says Sherry Jeffe, political scientist at the University of Southern California. Because they are facing neither each other nor an audience on a live stage, it’s not unreasonable to expect that either could use voluminous notes of talking points, she says.

As was the case in their first debate, Fiorina is expected to try to paint Boxer as an ineffective incumbent, and Boxer to try to articulate why Fiorina is a newcomer so conservative that she is out of step with Californians.

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