Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin sided with the Susan B. Anthony list on Friday in backing former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina in the GOP California Senate primary, even though Palin admitted that Fiorina lacks the support of many conservatives.
Speaking to a standing-room-only audience at the Ronald Reagan Center in Washington, both Palin and SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser mentioned several pro-life women running for office but gave particular mention to Fiorina in her bid to unseat liberal California Sen. Barbara Boxer. Because Fiorina is from “deep blue California,” declared Palin, the Senate hopeful is “accused of being a RINO [Republican in Name Only]."
“She’s the real deal—bold enough and strong enough,” Palin told the cheering crowd, and said that Fiorina is “pro-life, pro-NRA [National Rifle Association], anti-tax, and anti-big government.”
The audience loved it. However, some conservatives were disappointed that Palin and the SBA got involved in a contested primary that includes State Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, a solid conservative and with a strong pro-life record. (The third candidate in California’s June Senate primary is liberal former Rep. Tom Campbell, who takes a strong pro-abortion position).
“I have a strong pro-life record and a lifetime of activism,” DeVore told me shortly after the breakfast, responding to the remarks by Palin and the endorsement of Fiorna by the SBA. “Carly Fiorina cast her first ballot at the age of 44 and has signed a piece of paper to state her pro-life credentials.”
“With the last two Rasmussen Polls showing I do better against Boxer than does Fiorina, I believe I’m in a stronger position, in spite of the modest amounts of personal wealth (by California standards) that Fiorina has put into her campaign.”
Later on Friday, SBA’s President Dannenfelser discussed with me some of the concerns conservatives had about her organization going with Fiorna over Palin.
“We’re well aware of Chuck DeVore’s pro-life record and think he is very capable,” she said, “but from our perspective, Carly Fiorina is the ideal candidate—certainly against Barbara Boxer. She’s one of the most articulate women we’ve interviewed and she is passionate about the right-to-life issue. We have no doubts at all she would be a very strong advocate of the pro-life cause.”
Dannenfelser emphasized that the SBA List has “a very strict endorsement process” and that their priority is supporting “pro-life women” and, when there is no one in a race who fits this criterion, they support “pro-life men against pro-abortion women.” Two years ago, SBA made headlines with its endorsement of then-Rep. Steve Pearce for the Republican nomination for the Senate in New Mexico over then-Rep. Heather Wilson, who took a pro-abortion stand. Many pundits credit Pearce’s narrow (51% to 49%) win over Wilson to the SBA blessing.
One interesting sidelight to the SBA endorsement process has been its staying out of the New Hampshire Senate primary so far. Former State Attorney General Kelly Ayotte is a pro-life woman and faces attorney Ovid LaMontagne, a pro-life man, and businessman Bill Binnie, who is pro-abortion. Based on the criterion Dannenfelser explained to me for candidate endorsements, Ayotte should be a natural for the SBA to support.
“We haven’t made a decision yet,” said Dannenfelser regarding New Hampshire. She added that Ayotte “has not given us her questionnaire back.” Ayotte attended the SBA breakfast Friday as a guest and, while not endorsed by the group, was nonetheless singled out for praise by Palin from the podium.