In the end, neither Meg Whitman nor Carly Fiorina could sell their conservative platforms in left-leaning California.
High-profile business backgrounds, hundreds of millions of
dollars and a wave of voter discontent that swept dozens of Republicans into
national offices could not help Meg Whitman or Carly Fiorina capture the
gubernatorial or Senate seats they sought in California.
Both of the former high-tech executives lost their political
bids during the Nov. 2 elections, undone in large part by their attempts to push a
strong conservative message in a state that bends staunchly left. They also
brought a resume that lacked any real political experience against longtime
veterans on both the state and national political scenes, and according to some
pundits, their business backgrounds hurt them at a time when voters mired in a
historic recession and jobless rates have a high level of distrust of
Fiorina, the former CEO
of Hewlett-Packard, ran a high-profile campaign against longtime U.S. Sen.
Barbara Boxer, an unabashed liberal Democrat who unlike many others in her
party embraced President Barack Obama during the race. Fiorina came up short,
losing to Boxer by about 52-43 percent. She finally conceded the race midmorning
Pacific time Nov. 3.
For her part, Whitman, who reportedly spent about $140
million of her own money in her failed bid for the governor's office, lost
54-41 percent to Democrat Jerry Brown, the attorney general who served as California's
governor from 1975 to 1983.
In September 2009, Mark Petracca, an associate professor of
political science at the University of California-Irvine, said in an interview
with eWEEK that a challenge facing both Fiorina and Whitman-and any statewide
Republican candidate, for that matter-was navigating through the California GOP
waters. The party is controlled by strong conservatives, so winning the
primaries calls for espousing right-wing views. However, the state-which has 2.4 million
more Democrats than Republicans-leans hard to the left, and to take a statewide
office, both Fiorina and Whitman need to steer their post-primary messages back
to the middle.
For example, during the primary race, Fiorina embraced the
endorsement of Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin,
but when the former Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential candidate came to
the state during the race against Brown, Fiorina didn't attend, reportedly
saying she had another commitment.
In the end, neither Whitman nor Fiorina, who spent $6.5
million of her own money on the campaign, was able to break through the Democratic
lines with their mainstream Republican messages on such social issues as
immigration, a tough play in a left-leaning state with a large and growing
very hard to win in the state of California with
the orthodox conservative positions that she took," Bruce Cain, a
UC-Berkeley professor and director of the University of California Washington
Center, told the San Jose Mercury News. "[Fiorina] was perfectly situated to
get through the primary, but it did not set her up well for the general election."
tried to paint Boxer as someone who had been in the Senate for too long, was
too tied to Obama and the $814 billion stimulus bill, and was out of touch.
However, Boxer attacked Fiorina's record as HP's CEO,
saying that during her tenure, HP laid off 30,000 employees while sending jobs
oversees and giving Fiorina bonuses. She was further hurt when HP heirs, some
employees and former employees, and Silicon Valley
figures-including Cisco Systems CEO John
Chambers-came out for Boxer. Former Intel CEO
Craig Barrett did come out in support of Fiorina.
touted her business background at eBay and talked about tax breaks for
businesses. She also took a hard line on immigration, but was hurt when it was
revealed that the Mexican housekeeper she had hired was an undocumented alien.