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DeVore, Campbell face-to-face in GOP Senate debate; Fiorina to phone in

March 4, 2010 |  4:43 pm

When the first Republican Senate debate takes place tomorrow, Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine) and former congressman Tom Campbell will face off at a Sacramento radio station, while their opponent, multimillionaire businesswoman Carly Fiorina, will be participating by phone.

That has benefits and disadvantages for Fiorina, the former head of Hewlett-Packard who is participating in her first candidates’ debate.

Her competitors are convinced that she will have aides scurrying about with laptops and cue cards, offering assistance to tough questions.

“You watch, there’s going to be a four-second delay every time she answers a question,” said Ray McNally, a strategist for Campbell.

Campbell called for the debate, which is taking place at noon on “The Capitol Hour” on KTKZ-AM 1380, after Fiorina criticized him last week for voting to twice to trim economic aid to Israel and for connections to people who supported terrorists.

“Why doesn’t she drive up?” asked Campbell spokesman Jamie Fisfis, noting that she will be a two-hour drive from the studio.  “She leveled some pretty serious charges. She should be there to address them in person.”

Fiorina’s campaign said no campaign staff will be with Fiorina, only her longtime aide Deborah Bowker.

Spokeswoman Julie Soderlund added that the campaign would have preferred to have Fiorina in studio, but her schedule is too full to allow it. Today, she is in Orange County for campaign events and meetings before heading to the Bay Area tonight. On Friday morning, she has political and fundraising meetings prior to the debate, and then will call in from her home in Los Altos Hills. Once the debate is over, she must fly to Los Angeles to take part in an evening candidate forum, Soderlund said.

“We rearranged her schedule to make it possible for her to participate in this debate,” Soderlund said, noting that they were asked to take part less than a week ago.  “It was a priority for us. Unfortunately, given her travel schedule this week, it was not possible for her to be there in person.”

Others said that Fiorina will have some disadvantages by not being in the room. She will not be able to see the body language or facial expressions of her competitors or the moderator, Eric Hogue.

Hogue noted that it’s easier to cut some someone off if they are on the phone, something he would be watching for.

“I’m going to make sure she’s heard,” Hogue said. “It’s really easy to jump on somebody on the phone.”

-- Seema Mehta