Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Republican challenger Carly Fiorina have their first debate Wednesday night and the expectations and stakes are high.

The two women are essentially tied in polling to this point - albeit with a slight edge for Boxer. There's a lot of rancor in this race. Boxer did not expect to have so much trouble in her run for a third term and Fiorina likes to throw lots of jabs and has the money to land thgem. The race is, much like the gubernatorial contest between Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown, an expensive, mostly negative affair.

Boxer is in the news today looking to hold President Obama to reassert his timetable to begin an Afghan drawdown in 2011, staking out her territory on the left on the war. The conflict has less support in California than many states, so expect Boxer to try to pin down the Hawkish Fiorina as a proponent of staying in Afghanistan for "as long as it takes."

Fiorina will be pushing hard on the central message on her campaign: jobs. Expect to hear a great deal about California's sputtering economy and Fiorina trying to pin the incumbent down on issues like whether she supports the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

The debate will be hosted by FOX affiliate KTVU in San Diego. Questions will come from reporters for the San Francisco Chronicle, NPR affiliate KQED and Spanish-language newspaper La Opinion - not exactly a friendly lineup for Fiorina.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First" political news note and hosts "Power Play," a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace."  He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.