Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina Lose Traction in Final Days Of Campaign
Recent elections nationwide have featured an unusually high number of high-profile women, including those in California. The Golden State’s 2010 election cycle has three women running in the gubernatorial and senate races - successful, high-profile women at that. Barbara Boxer is a powerful member of the Senate, whereas Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina made millions (or billions) running large companies.
In a progressive state like California, it’s not surprising there are several female candidates, and given the economy, anti-incumbent mood, and candidate war chests, it’s not been a surprise that newcomers Whitman and Fiorina have done as well as they have.
But in the last few weeks, positive opinions of the two candidates have decreased, and their favorable ratings in the polls are down.
Nannygate appears to have been the beginning of the end for Whitman. The story received national media attention, Whitman lost much of the ground she had gained with Latinos, it opened the door for people to wonder about her integrity and, perhaps more importantly, her ability to be compassionate. In addition to the nanny scandal, many find her bottomless campaign wallet unappealing, and she never succeeded at connecting with voters in speeches and TV commercials. Her most recent appearance at Maria Shriver’s Women’s Conference in Long Beach earned boos from the audience when she refused to agree to end all negative campaign ads.
Polls this week show Brown leading by 10 points.
Fiorina’s decline in the polls has been less dramatic than Whitman’s, but the five most recent polls show Fiorina anywhere from two to ten points behind Boxer, leaving experts to conclude that Boxer will almost certainly keep her Senate seat. Fiorina is much more personable than Whitman, which resulted in a greater connection with voters in debates and ads and perhaps helped keep the race so close for so long.
Fiorina's defeat on November 2, however, would not be a surprise. Unlike Whitman, Fiorina takes a hard-line, conservative approach to social issues that is out of sync with the majority of Californians. For example, Fiorina does not support abortion under any circumstances, even if the life of the mother is in danger. She also admitted to personally voting for Proposition 8, the controversial ballot measure that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
Sarah Palin, the torchbearer for the Tea Party movement, also came out in support of Fiorina, but whereas this might provide an advantage in some regions of the state, it likely scares the you-know-what out of even most moderates.
California is a unique state facing a lot of challenges today and in the future. Our education system ranks near the bottom in high school graduation rates, the state is billions of dollars in debt, the legislature is polarized, there is a ballooning prison population, a continuous water crisis and much more.
Women are extremely capable of tackling California’s problems and moving us in the right direction. That there are two women running against one another for one of California’s senate seats, and another running for governor, is fantastic.
Unfortunately for Whitman and Fiorina, neither is the type of woman that California wants or needs.
California has a history of electing intelligent, thoughtful and strong-willed women with a passion for improving the state. Californians have elected them to Congress, the state legislature, city councils and school boards. And I hope that one day in the near future, we will elect one as governor of California.
In each case, let’s be sure we are supporting women who truly represent California.
Reach writer Meredith Vivian here.