California's Ballot Full of Women

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>Sarah Palin's recent endorsement of Carly Fiorina for California's Senate race could create a nearly all-female line-up for the state's upcoming elections. If Fiorina wins the Republican primary, which Palin's endorsement makes more likely, she would go head-to-head with Barbara Boxer, the Democratic incumbent. Meanwhile, Republican rookie Meg Whitman will be battling longtime attorney general Jerry Brown for the governor's mansion.

Palin was largely expected to back Chuck DeVore, a Tea Party-approved candidate who shares many of her fiscal and social positions. Fiorina, a Stanford-educated ex-Hewlett-Packard-CEO whose pro-business mantra is far more developed than her ambiguous stance on social issues, could be seen as embodying the elitism Palin so often derides. In 2008, Fiorina came under fire for saying that Palin didn't have the chops to run a major company.

So why did Palin choose her over the right-wing favorite? She could be paying a political debt to John McCain, whose presidential campaign Fiorina advised. McCain has already endorsed Fiorina's Senate bid. Marc Ambinder thinks Palin is following the polls, which are favoring Fiorina over DeVore. It would serve any politician well to form an early alliance with a senator who happened to have a powerful network in Silicon Valley.

How Fiorina will benefit from Palin's endorsement, however, is less clear. Tom Campbell, who's leading both Fiorina and DeVore in the primary polls, is more centrist than either candidate--in her Facebook endorsement of Fiorina, Palin referred to Campbell as "a liberal member of the GOP who seems to bear almost no difference to Boxer, one of the most leftwing members of the Senate." If Palin's approval moves any right-wing votes from DeVore's camp to Fiorina's, Fiorina could gain a crucial leg-up over Campbell in the primary. But in a general election matchup with Boxer, Fiorina's association with Palin's radical conservative brand could alienate the moderates and independents she'll be courting.

Let's say Palin's endorsement is Fiorina's ticket to Washington. With former eBay CEO Meg Whitman leading the gubernatorial race, what would a California run by two steely female Silicon Valley insiders look like? A business mecca, most likely. Schwarzenegger's prized cap-and-trade plan would be scrapped.  Offshore drilling rigs would be welcomed, even in the wake of the Gulf Coast's devastating spill. Business taxes would be slashed. But with two newcomers to politics, the state would lose the Washington sway Boxer has built so carefully over her 17-year Senate tenure.

The two women would also usher in a new era of female politician. Palin ran (and may continue to run) on the idea that any multi-tasking mom can take on the political establishment with enough guts and hard work. Whitman and Fiorina are running on the concept that any successful CEO can take on the political establishment with enough cash and connections. And unlike Palin, neither woman is known for her magnetic personality. Whitman is a bit of a soft-spoken bore, while Fiorina has been called narcissistic and a "street bully." 

But California, which produced Ronald Reagan, the Governator, and the 2003 recall, has bred some unusual politicians. It's about time some of them were women.

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Nicole Allan is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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