The XX Factor

Carly Fiorina: Shying Away From Sarah Palin?

A good deal has been written about the different choices two major Republican candidates are making in California. Meg Whitman has tacked toward the center after winning the Republican nomination for governor. But Carly Fiorina is attempting a tougher thing , maintaining her position on the right end of the spectrum on issues like offshore drilling, abortion, global warming, immigration, and gun rights as she battles for Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat. This approach is provoking debate over just how blue California really is. Fiorina’s campaign is gambling on the theory that California voters really just care about the economy right now, and the GOP candidate spends much more of her time talking about issues like jobs and spending. (See two of Fiorina’s most recent ads , hitting Boxer on the economy.)

But on one issue, Fiorina is choosing what might be seen as a more middle-of-the-road approach. She is skipping a Republican National Committee fundraiser featuring Sarah Palin and- according to Politico today-will instead be campaigning with John McCain, whom she served as a surrogate during the 2008 presidential race. To be fair, the Palin fundraiser was announced relatively late in the game; still, observers have wondered whether Palin’s high unfavorable ratings in California may also have been a factor. (Whitman is also skipping the RNC fundraiser.)

The irony, of course, is the role that Palin has played in Fiorina’s primary win. As the Los Angeles Times put it, “Conservatives were initially skeptical of Fiorina, questioning her commitment to core GOP values, especially on social issues. But some of those concerns were put to rest after former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin endorsed the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive as one of her ‘Mama Grizzlies.’ ”

On the other hand, Fiorina’s decision to skip the fundraiser is softened somewhat by her recent statement that she believes Palin is qualified to be president .

Photograph of Carly Fiorina by Getty Images.