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Will Tea Party conservatives crash Boxer-Fiorina?

November 16, 2009 |  5:29 pm
Untitled-1 It looks as if they're trying. The Washington Independent's David Weigel reports today about a conference call among conservative bloggers and Carly Fiorina, a Republican challenging Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) for her seat:

Halfway through the call, however, conservative blogger Dan Riehl awoke the elephant in the room. Did Fiorina have anything to say to Chuck DeVore? One day earlier, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) had endorsed DeVore, a Republican assemblyman from Irvine, Calif., who had been running against Boxer for months, and had pre-emptively attacked Fiorina for her allegedly liberal positions. ...

In the wake of the NY-23 special election debacle, where Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman united the national conservative movement against a liberal Republican candidate and let a Democrat sneak in to win a key congressional seat, Republican strategists are looking at more contested primaries than they’d like. While the Senate primary between Marco Rubio and Gov. Charlie Crist (R-Fla.) has gotten the most attention, there are primaries in Ohio, Kentucky, New Hampshire and to a lesser extent Illinois that pit experienced Republican politicians against more ideological activist candidates–some with deep pockets. Democrats who are running defense on their control of Congress are making all they can out of primary battles that, so far, have driven candidates such as Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) to dent their moderate credentials as they try to win over the party’s base.

The California primary is something of an aberration. DeVore has a longer political resume than Fiorina. Her political baptism came as an adviser to the McCain-Palin campaign. He worked for the Reagan administration and has been a member of the California legislature since 2005. He has a lengthy voting record and a longer rhetoric of conservative speeches and blog posts. Ever since it became clear that Fiorina might jump in the race, his small campaign staff has laid traps for her by portraying her as a closet moderate -- the kind of candidate many Republicans believe they need in blue California, but not one the base should have to settle for.

The whole article, very much worth a read, is here.

What immediately comes to mind is the 2002 gubernatorial race between incumbent Democrat Gray Davis and GOP nominee Bill Simon (for those whom memory doesn't serve, click here for a bio). Davis, of course, lost the 2003 recall vote a year and a half after his reelection as governor, not because of bullet-proof approval ratings on election day in 2002 that somehow wilted less than an election cycle later, but because he essentially selected his opponent by running ads against the moderate Republican Richard Riordan during the GOP primary. Fiorina entered the race taking shots at Boxer; I wouldn't be surprised if Boxer obliges and gives the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive the primary battle she asked for.

So Californians may yet again endure the letdown of an electoral battle royal that never was. In 2002, it was supposed to be Riordan-Davis; in 2010, the "what if" may be Fiorina-Boxer. The outcome of a Boxer-DeVore match (the latter, as Weigel reports in his article, has expressed Obama birther sympathies) would seem a foregone conclusion. After all, when asked to choose between a far-from-the-mainstream partisan and an incumbent with limited legislative accomplishments, Californians in the past have sided with the bland over the bracing.

-- Paul Thornton

Left photo: U.S. Sen. Barabara Boxer. Credit: Michael Reynolds / European Pressphoto Agency.
Right photo: GOP Senate hopeful Carly Fiorina. Credit: Michal Czerwonka / Getty Images.

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