But all those factors aside, Boxer's aides believe that they were able to define Fiorina through their ad campaign in a way that made it difficult for her to recover.
They had roared into the fall campaign with a significant financial advantage — allowing them to air television ads for more than a week unchallenged by Fiorina. In mid-September, they launched the first of a series of scorching ads detailing the layoffs and outsourcing during her tenure at HP, as well as the millions of dollars in compensation she received.
Boxer's campaign manager, Rose Kapolczynski, said at that juncture, many voters still did not know much about Fiorina: "That was an opportunity to define her," she said.
Within a few weeks, polling showed that Fiorina had slumped by eight points.
Boxer's pollster Mark Mellman said Fiorina's business experience initially impressed voters but "when people understood what she really did at HP, it was devastating to her."
"If there is a mortal sin in this economy, it is exporting jobs," he said.
Boxer's team also believed that they benefited from the fact that Fiorina never offered what they deemed to be an effective defense of her record. But Fiorina campaign manager Marty Wilson said the campaign decided early on to focus on defining Boxer as an ineffective and partisan incumbent who had been in office too long, to the detriment of Californians. Fiorina's ads glossed over her corporate record to focus on her pledge to find common ground in Washington.
"We could not win the election if we played on Barbara Boxer's turf, which would have been to get into a big, long, lengthy discussion about why corporate CEOs have to make the decisions that they make. It was not a winning argument for us," Wilson said. Neither, however, was the strategy they pursued.
"At the end of the day, the simple answer is we didn't get enough votes," Wilson said.