In his bid for U.S. Senate, Republican Chuck DeVore has gone to great lengths to portray his primary election opponent Carly Fiorina as too liberal, particularly on the issue of abortion, but some California political observers now say the cash-strapped DeVore campaign is playing fast and loose with the facts.
Last week, Fiorina announced she took the first step in challenging Senator Barbara Boxer, and by proxy DeVore, by registering her campaign committee, “Carly for California,” with the IRS.
The DeVore campaign, certainly wasting no time, launched a cheeky website to “welcome Carly to the race,” asking supporters to send Fiorina one of four pre-scripted emails. Found among the original choices was the patronizing option to ask Ms. Fiorina, 54, to “make up her mind” on abortion, adding that “Carly Fiorina has never said whether she’s pro-life.” The DeVore campaign has since changed the wording to “suspect on life issues,” but the sentiment—that Fiorina is some sort of pro-abortion Manchurian Candidate—remains the same.
Following the launch of the website, DeVore allies began widely circulating an item from the Wall Street Journal that so matter-of-factly described Fiorina as “pro-choice on abortion” it reeked of poor campaign opposition research. Yesterday, the article was amended to show that Fiorina was, in fact, pro-life.
You should have detected a theme here.
Despite DeVore’s protestations, Fiorina settled on the contentious issue of abortion years ago. And contrary to the campaign’s constant refrain, she proudly calls herself a “pro-life, conservative, and life-long Republican.”
While abortion promises to be a challenge in a face-off with the fiercely pro-choice Boxer, Fiorina seems nonetheless resolved to make her pro-life position known. But for whatever reason, Fiorina’s verifiable pro-life record is not enough for DeVore.
“If DeVore doesn’t make it to the general election, he’ll be sure to bloody up Fiorina on her way,” said one Republican activist with ties to the DeVore campaign, speaking only on the condition of anonymity.
“They don’t have a statewide donor network and, as a result, they’ve raised only a couple hundred thousand dollars. They’re running against a three-term United States Senator, but their campaign is barely equipped to stage a successful state Senate bid.” Putting it bluntly, the activist added, “Chuck is a good man, but he is not a viable candidate.”
Political strategists consider any incumbent polling below 50% as potentially vulnerable, but money is the final arbiter in California statewide elections – and money is just what DeVore does not have. What DeVore lacks in campaign funds, he makes up for in doggedness, to be sure. Doggedness, however, won’t saturate television and radio with the ad buys necessary for electoral success; this requires millions of dollars.
DeVore has only raised a meager $337,000 in the eleven months he’s been running to unseat Boxer, according to his campaign’s July FEC filings. But with a fairly loose grip on the campaign’s purse strings, the campaign has burned through $302,000 and found itself $106,000 in debt.
Fiorina, who left HP with a severance package of $21 million in 2005, is positioned to shift considerably the dynamics of the money game. California has become reliably Democratic, and, should she hope to stage a successful challenge, she’ll need to either raise significant sums of money or dip into her personal fortune to stem the Democratic tide. On this count, Fiorina is particularly well-suited.
California’s voters first sent Boxer to Congress in 1992 and she easily won reelection in 1998 and 2004 – all three races against men. In her seventeen years there, Boxer has been a leading voice on women’s issues, including health care, domestic abuse, and reproductive care.
National interest in the race was subdued until last month when Rasmussen revealed that Fiorina, the first female chief executive of a Fortune 20 company, trailed Democratic incumbent Boxer by only 4 points in a theoretical matchup.
UPDATE: Joshua Trevino of the DeVore campaign responds thusly: "Pro-lifers should congratulate Carly Fiorina for her belief in the sanctity of life. But if she wants to claim it as a credit to her electoral ambitions, she has a long road ahead — and some explaining to do about the road behind."
[Full disclosure: The author of this article served as RNC Online Communications Manager during Ms. Fiorina’s tenure as 2008 Victory Chairwoman at the RNC.]