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Fiorina could win with a compromise on abortion

by Alan Markow, published

The Boxer-Fiorina race remains tight, which is remarkable given the anti-incumbent mood that has swept the nation and the state.  But Carly just can’t seem to seal the deal, and it’s probably because she’s stuck to an ideology that is simply untenable for vast numbers of California voters. 

It would take only a small compromise on her part to send Boxer packing.  Say, for example, Carly revised her stance on abortion rights.  In a state that favors choice, the hard-line anti-abortion position makes no sense – except in an ideological way.  It’s hard to believe that a highly successful business executive doesn’t understand the need to occasionally give up a prized position or two in order to win over a customer.  Perhaps the Fiorina hard-line on abortion is symbolic of why she finally failed at Hewlett-Packard.  Maybe she simply can’t compromise. 

If this is the case, then she also probably couldn’t make the kind of change in the political landscape that most Californians seem to want:  a lessening of polarization between the two major parties.  But, were Carly to signal even minimal flexibility on abortion rights, Californians will assume that she’s got room to flex on other issues.  Such a move is unlikely to lose the support of her conservative base (they aren’t going to vote for Boxer under any circumstances, and they recognize the political value of winning in a big, blue state), and she will undoubtedly pick up some fence-sitters who don’t much care for Boxer but can’t bring themselves to mark a ballot for Fiorina because of her far-right positions. 

The latest Rasmussen survey continues to call the California Senate race a toss-up, and while the candidates have maintained a four-point separation over the past two weeks, Boxer now registers 49 percent support, a hair’s breadth away from the magic 50 percent that generally ensures re-election by an incumbent.  The margin of error makes this race un-callable, and the Fiorina campaign insists that this result is positive in light of California’s political inclinations.  But they’ve got to be worried. 

In a campaign this close, Fiorina could pull out the upset with a surprise softening of her more conservative positions.  Of course Boxer would call her a “flip-flopper”, and she might take some heat from the more militant arm of the Republican Party and its Tea Party doppelganger.  But, all would likely be forgiven during the victory celebration and the “death of the Democrats” commentary that would accompany the overturning of a solid seat in a solid Democratic state. 

So why doesn’t she even hint at making a change that could bring this race to a sudden and stunning end?  I can’t explain it, but I don’t believe it’s a deep conviction that motivates her on an issue like abortion.  It’s more likely that she’s badly advised by true ideologues on her campaign team who warn that the base will abandon her if she gives an inch on the litmus-test issues of neo-conservatism.

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