Fiorina Fires Up GOPers

San Diego, Calif.—Watching the enthusiastic response from the California Republican convention to U.S. Senate nominee Carly Fiorina’s fighting speech on Saturday, one could not help but notice the contrast between how the GOP gathering felt about Fiorina and their other top statewide candidate, gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman.

Throughout the three-day convention held at the Manchester Hyatt here, conservative GOPers frequently made it clear that they differed with the more moderate Whitman on several key issues, but would work to elect her because they could not stomach a return to the governorship by Democratic state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown.

As for businesswoman-candidate Fiorina, the delegates’ enthusiasm was clearly as much for the Senate hopeful herself as it was for unseating three-term Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer. The most recent USA Survey poll showed Fiorina running five percentage points ahead of Boxer among likely Golden State voters.

The only criticism of Fiorina heard at the party conclave came not delegates but from my colleagues in the press, who agreed that at her brief press availability, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO ducked answers to questions of importance to conservatives. These questions ranged from whether she wanted Sarah Palin to campaign for her to if she backed Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration law.

GOP delegates, however, had almost-universal praise for the candidate they all call “Carly.”  

“Carly’s a unique Republican,” longtime conservative activist Linda Dealy of San Diego told HUMAN EVENTS during the convention luncheon. “She’s an accomplished business leader, solidly conservative on fiscal issues and on social issues as well. But her pro-life stand has not been a stumbling block with more moderate women. They just like the complete package that is Carly.”

As to criticism that was voiced in the Republican primary that Fiorina was not grounded in conservatism, GOP National Committeeman Shawn Steele replied: “Hey, she’s pro-life, her husband’s an NRA member, she’s created jobs and she wants to cut taxes and spending. In her convention speech, she spelled out the clear differences between herself and Boxer on big government and more regulation. And she referred to ‘left-wing’ opponent. Moderates don’t use a word like ‘left wing’—conservatives do.”

Denouncing Boxer as a “career politician” and the agenda of the Obama Administration that Boxer unfailingly backs, Fiorina’s address drew two standing ovations and chants of “Carly! Carly!” Then she met the press.  

Is Palin Coming or Not?

Reminding Fiorina how Sarah Palin strongly endorsed her in the primary, HUMAN EVENTS asked if she was proud of that support and wanted the Alaskan to campaign for her in the fall. Fiorina replied that she was “proud of my support from Gov. Palin, and from [Maine’s liberal GOP Sen.] Olympia Snowe, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and on and on.” Across the political spectrum many recognize the importance of her defeating Boxer, Fiorina said.  

But she never said whether she wanted Palin at her side on the campaign trail.

Asked by other reporters whether she supported Arizona’s tough new law dealing with illegal immigration and if California should have an “Arizona law,” the Republican Senate nominee again avoided a direct answer. She said that Arizona did what it had to do since the federal government was not dealing with the issue, that Boxer voted against both “securing our borders and a guest worker program” and then “vilified the people of Arizona.”

On Proposition 20—a statewide initiative that would suspend California’s tough cap-and-trade regulations until unemployment has dropped—Fiorina repeated her earlier support. But rather than expound on the measure that is strongly backed by conservatives (and sure to generate controversy in the fall), she quickly noted that this is a “state issue” and she would be working in the Senate to stop cap and trade at the national level.

Overall, Carly Fiorina hit a home run with her party’s base this weekend. In all likelihood, she can count on them in the general election. But just a few more specific answers on some things wouldn’t hurt.