Can Moderate Republicans Win Statewide in California?

This Wednesday former Hewlett-Packard CEO and John McCain presidential adviser Carly Fiorina announced her candidacy for US Senate. Her candidacy, Fiorina hopes, will have her take on longtime and proud liberal California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer in the conservative Orange County. While her campaign kicked off with a day-time talk show looking logo and a mea culpa for her lack of voting in California elections (she's missed 75 percent of all votes since 2000, including gubernatorial and presidential elections), Fiorina's campaign kickoff lacked any sort of excitement according to LA Times columnist Michael Hiltznik. However before the very wealthy businesswoman takes on Boxer in the general election in November 2010, she'll have to win the Republican primary in June of 2010. But she won't. She won't lose the primary because of a lackluster launch or a fancy logo or an interesting life story as a female CEO (even though her career as CEO is spotty at best) or a survivor of breast cancer, the problem is Fiorina's politics.

While she announced that she has signed a pledge to never vote for a tax increase, her politics don't fall far right enough for what is remaining of the California Republican party. While Fiorina pledges to be tough on taxes, she falls in line with the John McCain wing of the Republican Party and McCain only received 37 percent of the statewide vote in 2008.

So that leaves the question, what Republican Party leaders can come to California to stump for Fiorina and get national donations? From the 2008 election results, John McCain isn't that person. From his abysmal approval ratings, "moderate" Republican Governor Schwarzenegger won't help on the stump for Fiorina. What about Sarah Palin? She drew huge crowds when she stumped for Vice President in Los Angeles in 2008. Fiorina won't get the Palin wing of the GOP to endorse her because super conservative Orange County Assemblyman Chuck DeVore has also announced his candidacy for Senate. And Palin specifically won't stump for Fiorina after Fiorina famously said during an interview that Palin couldn't be a CEO of a large company. That leaves Megan McCain as the only Republican popular enough in California to stump for Fiorina.

DeVore already has the support for South Carolina Republican Senator Jim DeMint and DeVore's policies fall in line with the tea-partiers: small government, anti-stimulus, anti-health care reform, drill-baby-drill, anti-same-sex marriage and pro-gun. Just wait for Palin, Armey, Pawlenty, Gingrich, Huckabee and the rest of the 2012 hopefuls to get in line for an opportunity to snub a former McCain advisor for the far-right "Washington outsider" DeVore

Neither of the two-major political parties make up a majority of voters in California. "Decline to State", California's version of "independent", make up an even 20 percent of the electorate while Democrats have the plurality of registered voters at 44.6 percent, Republican registration makes up an unremarkable 31 percent.

All this means is that the stalwart Republicans, the ones who live in conservative Orange County, California deserts and rural areas get their pick for Republican nominee. The ones who boarded the "Tea Party Express" are going to elect their choices for statewide office: DeVore and any social conservative gubernatorial (like conservative Tom Campbell) by wide margins. The problem for the GOP is that with a 69-31 percent deficit, their candidate will face a tough time getting past a well-respected, pro-environment, progressive Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer in the general election.

Even as a "moderate" Republican, Fiorina isn't a strong choice for Republican nominee. Her tenure at HP was marred by bad decisions such as the acquisition of Compaq, accusations of spying on HP employees, a 60 percent plummet in stock price and her ultimate termination from the job as CEO. Not to mention being fired from the McCain presidential campaign in 2008. But with such a small Republican base in the Golden State any right-wing nominee will face a major uphill battle to win statewide in California and the Tea Party will have to settle for more moral victories.

Tags: Barbara Boxer, California, Carly Fiorina, Chuck DeVore, GOP, John McCain, Republicans (all tags)



Re: Can Moderate Republicans Win Statewide in Cali

Fiorina doesn't seem like a serious candidate. I'm more interested in the question of Meg Whitman.

It seems like although "moderate republicans" would normally have as much of a statewide chance in California as they do anywhere else, Whitman at least is likely to to have problems just because of how much damage Schwarzenegger has done to the moderate Republican brand. It seems to me that most of the problems Schwarzenegger, and by extension the state, have had over the last few years have to do specifically with the fact Schwarzenegger is a moderate Republican. A Democrat might have been able to work with the Democrats and pass a budget, a "real" Republican would have been able to work with the Republicans and pass a budget. Schwarzenegger, being neither here nor there, could gather the support of neither party on any issue and couldn't seem to do much of anything.

Whitman and Schwarzenegger are really very similar candidates, they are from the same wing of the party and both come in with business rather than political experience. Whitman supports prop 8 where Schwarzenegger didn't but Whitman otherwise has shown no indications of having specific appeal to right-wing Christians. In order to sell herself to voters Whitman basically has to use the same approach and language that would be used for a third Schwarzenegger term. I doubt voters want a third Schwarzenegger term. It seems like it will be fairly easy for Democrats to frame the gubernatorial race in terms of "do you really want another four years of this?"

by mcc 2009-11-06 09:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Can Moderate Republicans Win Statewide in Cali

I think you're right about Whitman and her issues as a candidate. Many of the political problems that fall upon Fiorina also fall upon Whitman. Whitman's advantage is that her tenure at Ebay was met with major growth and success.

The question is how will California Republican voters pick their nominee. My guess is if Bill Campbell makes a serious run, he'll get the same conservative voters that DeVore gets. That being said, Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman are both billionaires and that can buy a lot of advertising to sway independent voters.

This is where Whitman's political problems play. She was with Romney, then McCain and is a two-time loser. Poizner plays the pragmatic conservative to get the fiscally conservative vote and the fed-up with Sacramento vote and split the difference between Whitman and Campbell and win the GOP nomination.  

by Jason Rosenberg 2009-11-06 11:54AM | 0 recs
DeVore is

the one at a disadvantage because he can't self-finance to degree that Carly can.

I think you mean Tom Campbell, not Bill.

by Charles Lemos 2009-11-06 12:20PM | 0 recs
Re: DeVore is

You're right, I did mean Tom Campbell.

Your point about self-funding is understood, and while Fiorina is rich, she isn't that rich. It takes a lot of money to win in California and while she can theoretically give her campaign a shot in the arm with some fast money, she can't fund a campaign like Poizner or Whitman can fund theirs.

Also, if you take a look at self-funders, you'll see that throwing personal finances into a race more often than not leads to loss rather than victory.

by Jason Rosenberg 2009-11-06 01:09PM | 0 recs
Re: DeVore is

This a great post btw.

by Charles Lemos 2009-11-06 02:01PM | 0 recs
Re: DeVore is

Tom Campbell is a fiscal conservative but socially liberal (at least for a Republican). I know him from my Stanford days but it has been years since I have seen him.

You might enjoy this article.

Thomas Elias: How Campbell stays competitive in governor race

If there's one surprise so far in the budding campaign for governor of California, it's the fact that the candidate with the least cash on hand is somehow staying extremely competitive. So much so that the leading fear of his super-rich intra-party rivals is that he will somehow, somewhere come up with significant funds - and blow them out.

What has Tom Campbell done so far and how does he do it? From the very start of this race, he's run either first or second in the polls. In the most recent Field Poll, taken while billionaire former eBay chief Meg Whitman was airing weeks of radio ads, Campbell was only two percentage points behind among Republicans, while Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner placed a distant third.

"I think it's because of the new media," said Campbell, who estimated he had $300,000 on hand late last month, while his opponents had war chests well into the multimillions. By new media, oddly, Campbell doesn't mean the Internet. Rather, he's talking telephones.

Campbell calls his new tactic "tele-town halls," but they're actually much larger than the live ones staged by many members of Congress. His first seven drew 280,000 participants, all responding to robocalls inviting them to press 1 on their telephones and join the town hall. Only registered Republicans who have voted in the last four elections were called.

"These only cost us $25,000 apiece and they all had at least 5,000 to 7,000 people who stayed with it five

minutes or more," Campbell said. "I've never before seen a town hall with that many people. About one-fifth of those who come on actually stay for more than five minutes."
He thinks those participants have influence far beyond their numbers. Hence his poll standing, he believes.

But plenty of so-called experts think Campbell's chances could founder once his rivals begin airing their inevitable television commercials.

He's a Republican, but he's sane.

by Charles Lemos 2009-11-06 02:10PM | 0 recs
I am more worried

about Whitman than Fiorina. We have a tendency to panic about Barbara's chances because she is on the liberal end of the spectrum. Still, Fiorina is probably the most serious competition she has yet faced.

Both Meg and Carly have voter identification problems. No one knows who they are. Carly is graver in this regard. And then her record as HP CEO undermines her business acumen credentials. Neither has even bothered to vote. Carly's big idea in her announcement op-ed was to put all bills on the Internet. Guees what Carly, there are numerous websites both public and private that already do that. She is a joke. She is running to cut her own taxes. So is Whitman.  

by Charles Lemos 2009-11-06 11:54AM | 0 recs


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