Seven months before their primary showdown for the nomination to oppose Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and State Assemblyman Chuck DeVore are now engaged in a lively debate over who is and who isn’t a conservative.
DeVore doesn’t have much to defend. Having worked on campaigns for conservative Republicans since he was a teenager and compiled a good-as-Goldwater voting record during three terms in the state Assembly, the Orange County man’s ideology is unassailable. Whether the issue is the pro-life cause or building nuclear plants in the Golden State, one can usually find DeVore on the front-lines and fighting.
For Fiorina, however, this is not so easy. Well known in corporate circles, she only became noticed on the political front when she was economic advisor to presidential candidate John McCain and at one point mentioned as his running mate (When I interviewed her for the HUMAN EVENTS “Veepstakes” feature prior to Sarah Palin’s selection for the ticket, Fiorina did tell me that, while she had not held any office, she and husband Frank “have a joint account and we have consistently written checks to the Republican Party over the past six or seven years.”
So, at a breakfast yesterday (November 23rd) hosted by the American Spectator and Americans for Tax Reform, I asked Fiorina just where she disagrees with DeVore.
Insisting she was a conservative “fiscally and socially,” the businesswoman replied that “I’m not a career politician and I can defeat Barbara Boxer. Polls show that Chuck DeVore is the kind of opponent she hopes she faces. With all due respect to white males — and I’m married to one — she knows how to beat white men.” [Boxer’s three Republican opponents since 1992 have been male, but there is no evidence in any poll showing that the so-called “gender gap” is an issue; the most recent Rasmussen Poll showed Fiorina and DeVore polling equally as well against Boxer].
In what would turn out to be the biggest news emerging from the breakfast, Fiorina said that, while she did not study Sonia Sotomayor in great deal (“I was battling cancer at the time”), she probably would have “voted for her” confirmation to the Supreme Court. The daughter of the late Deputy U.S. Attorney General and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Joseph Sneed said she “does not believe in litmus tests” for judicial nominees and that the chief criterion for service on the bench is “respecting the Constitution."
This is not much different from the strict constructionism doctrine that DeVore cites as the proper test for confirming court candidates. But there is a difference between the candidates in that DeVore not only said he had studied Sotomayor’s record as a jurist and concluded he would have opposed her nomination, but actively used his Senate campaign to generate grass-roots opposition to the Obama nominee.
Beyond that, what Fiorina had to say at breakfast she has said before: that she is pro-life and believes “life begins at conception;” that she would have voted for the Stupak Amendment to the health care bill that denies the use of federal funds for abortions; that she believes “we must take advantage of every resource” such as offshore drilling and nuclear power to avoid any future energy crisis; that she is opposed to same-sex marriage and voted for the amendment that overturned a state court decision on this last year.
However, on two other points important to conservatives, Fiorina punted. While supporting securing the border and a guest worker program, the candidate would not say what she felt should happen to the illegal immigrants already here and would not say if she supported mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions (enacted by the California legislature).
One thing she was very clear about was that while she has loaned her campaign some money and predicted “this will be a $25 million race,” she will not spend her own money on the race. In her words, “I’m not in a position to self-fund.”
Parting Shot: Gradually we are learning more about where Carly Fiorina stands on issues. At breakfast yesterday, she clearly sounded on the right on most things but not all. The Sotomayor nomination and the lack of response on illegal immigration and gas emissions are going to raise some eyebrows among conservatives — important in a state where only registered Republicans and “decline to state” voters can participate in the primary. My guess is she did fine yesterday, but has more work to be done with conservatives.