It looks like Carly Fiorina has moved into the lead in the race to be the Republican nominee for the Senate in California. What’s less clear is whether, from a conservative point of view, her nomination would be desirable.
Fiorina would be the ultimate stealth nominee. Not only has she never held public office, but until fairly recently, she failed even to vote in most elections.
These days, when it’s in her interest to do so, she talks like a conservative. However, her past provides little reason to believe that she deeply holds conservative convictions. And if she doesn’t, but instead adopts positions based on her political interests, then she’s unlikely to represent a blue state like California as a reliable conservative.
Aspects of Fiornia’s campaigning also leave me cold. During a debate earlier this week, she responded to a substantive attack from conservative Chuck DeVore by saying, “I’m sure it’s very frustrating for Chuck DeVore to have so many conservatives supporting me; maybe it makes Chuck DeVore, who is dog-paddling at 14 percent in the polls … feel better to belittle other people’s conservative credentials.”
The standards for conduct during candidates’ debates are pretty low these days, but taunting an opponent for low poll numbers strikes me as quite unappealing. DeVore has every reason to question Fiorina’s conservative credentials, such as they are. Her campaign certainly hasn’t been shy about questioning those of her other opponent, Tom Campbell.
Republican voters in California don’t have an easy choice to make. DeVore is a strong conservative, but seems like a long-shot against Sen. Barbara Boxer in a “blue” California. Unlike Fiorina, Campbell has a long track record from which to discern his principles and beliefs. Many of them are conservative, but some are not. The National Taxpayers Union, an anti-tax group, gave Campbell “A” and “B” grades during his time in Congress; the American Conservative Union, which takes into account social issues, gave Campbell, who has a substantial libertarian streak, a lifetime rating of 54 during his final year in office on a scale where 80 is considered conservative. There are also concerns about Campbell’s level of support for Israel.
To be sure, all three candidates are vastly preferable to Boxer. But the past decade should have taught conservatives to worry not just about electing Republicans, but also about which Republicans we elect.
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