Can Moderate Republicans Win Statewide in California?
by Jason Rosenberg, Fri Nov 06, 2009 at 06:30:24 AM EST
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.