Earlier today, Brian noted the endorsement race between former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and California Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, but I thought I’d add a few broader points about the sure-to be contentious California Senate primary.
It’s pretty clear that DeVore, who has less built-in fundraising advantages and lacks institutional support, will try to Scozzafava-ize Fiorina. Essentially, his best bet is to portray her as a liberal who is being thrust upon voters by the establishment, while he tries to galvanize grassroots activists — and grab the online donations that go along with it. This much was pretty clear when DeVore spoke at a Spectator Newsmaker Breakfast in August. At the time, Fiorina wasn’t even running yet, but he blasted her as a “rich moderate” and “self-funded dilettante.”
Fiorina, for her part, comes into the race with more institutional support and should have plenty of financial resources, so her challenge will be to calm fears that she’s really just another liberal Republican, while at the same time making the case that she’ll be more electable statewide.
When it came to New York’s 23rd Congressional race, the case for Doug Hoffman was a no-brainer for conservatives. Scozzafava was a liberal on both economic and social issues — as evidenced by her ultimate endorsement of Bill Owens — and she was running in a district where a conservative candidate had a reasonable chance of victory. Things are a bit more murky in California. It’s much harder to see somebody who describes himself as a movement conservative winning a state that Obama carried by 24 points than it was to see the possibility of Hoffman winning a district that Obama carried by 5. And while Scozzafava had a very clear liberal record, it’s not yet clear where Fiorina is ideologically. For what it’s worth, in a recent interview Fiorina said she did not support the Wall Street bailout or economic stimulus package, which would put her to the right of Charlie Crist on the issue. On abortion, she said that she believes that life begins at conception and that she’s “personally pro-life” while adding that government policy should be focused on reducing abortions and promoting adoption. She also said that she’s opposed to government funding for abortion. I imagine that social conservatives will want to hear a bit more on this front, because when some politicians say they’re “personally pro-life” it still means that they think it should be up to each individual woman whether or not to choose abortion. But either way, her remarks certainly put her well to the right of Scozzafava, who was openly pro-choice.
So I think there are a lot of factors that will play into this race going forward. Will a long campaign show Fiorina to be as liberal as DeVore says, or is she more conservative than a lot of people currently perceive? Is DeVore the real deal, or are there some things in his voting record that may tarnish his conservative credentials? Who will look more electable against Barbara Boxer come next June’s primary? Of course, there are all the other non-ideological factors that will also play into the race. Fiorina, for one, had a very controversial tenure at Hewlett Packard, where she pushed through a contentious merger with Compaq, and was eventually ousted. Without getting into the merits, the point is that Fiorina made her fair share of enemies during her days as a corporate executive, and my guess is that they’ll be ready and willing to come out swinging against her, potentially resulting in some very unflattering stories she’ll have to fend off. While I’m somewhat familiar with Fiorina’s history in the business world from my days as a financial reporter, I’m less familiar with DeVore’s background beyond what he’s said directly and what I’ve read to this point. But the same thing applies. How will his biography hold up over the course of a seven month primary that is sure to be expensive and brutal?
Either way, it should be one of the Senate races worth keeping an eye on.
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