By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Adding further complexity to the Boxer-Fiorina race, the National Organization for Marriage, an antigay-marriage group that helped to pass Proposition 8 in 2008, has organized a bus tour in support of Fiorina, in order to turn out socially conservative voters — a crowd from which the Fiorina campaign hasn't distanced itself. Loathed by gay-rights activists, NOM is seen as being against gays and lesbians in general.
"Barbara Boxer's record is more than enough to explain any conservative's enthusiasm for Carly Fiorina," NOM board chairman Maggie Gallagher wrote in an e-mail to the Weekly. "On the marriage issue, Carly has sided with the rights of 7 million Californian voters on Prop. 8, and Barbara Boxer has sided with San Francisco's Judge Vaughn Walker's values. That explains NOM's involvement."
“Conservatives of all stripes like Carly,” says Sally Zelikovsky, founder of the Tea Party group Bay Area Patriots, “even conservative Democrats. People are going to get out the vote for her, walk the precincts for her.”
Craig Huey, researcher for the conservative Los Angeles Voter Guide, describes Fiorina’s bluntly conservative campaign as “refreshing,” saying, “Conservatives are very cynical. Politics does change people.
But Carly hasn’t backed down from the core issues she’s been talking about since the primary. Conservatives trust Carly; with Meg Whitman they don’t.”
With the polls in the final weeks showing Fiorina behind Boxer, her camp appears to be massaging the conservative tag. Asked why Fiorina is running in Democratic California as an “unabashed conservative,” campaign spokeswoman Liz Mair wrote in an e-mail to the Weekly, “Carly is running as Carly and does not much buy into labels. ... Carly is an outsider who has never run for office before, and someone who believes very strongly in the ability of ordinary citizens possessing real-world experience to contribute to their government, and that’s very appealing to a large swath of the electorate.”
But political analyst Quinn notes that Fiorina can still win, if she persuades an unusually large number of Republicans to leave their homes on Election Day, essentially winning the turnout contest against Boxer.
That is why Fiorina has popped up in small town after small town all summer, talking to farmers and small-business owners, all areas and voter groups that lean Republican.
The PPIC poll showed that 34 percent of likely independent voters favor Fiorina and 32 percent support Boxer — with 20 percent undecided. Boxer lost a little ground among independents since a July PPIC poll — 35 percent for Boxer and 29 percent for Fiorina, with 25 percent undecided — but Fiorina needs a bigger shift.
Independent voters cannot be easily categorized, ranging from wealthy businessmen and college students to Latinas who left the Democrats and single mothers. But, Democratic consultant Sragow points out, these independents are generally more fiscally conservative than Democrats yet have a "live-and-let-live" attitude. Fiorina's conservative social views could have independents, with their more libertarian views, conflicted.
Schwarzenegger "was a libertarian on social issues," says political analyst Tony Quinn. "So that didn't blow up on him."'
Quinn and Rasmussen say the political math still favors Boxer, as long as Election Day turnout is decent.
Boxer spokesman Dan Newman says a coalition of labor unions, environmentalists, pro-choice women and minority groups will help with that turnout: They'll "show up and vote."
Still, Rasmussen says voters nationwide are in an anti-incumbent mood, blaming President Obama, Congress and the political establishment — Boxer included — for mishandling the recession.
Fiorina can still play the outsider card, which means Boxer won't relax until the election is over. "She's conservative," Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor at the Cook Political Report, says of Fiorina, "but she's running as the candidate for change."
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at email@example.com.
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