Opinion: Did the tea party lose California, too?

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Many pundits, and some senators, are saying that the ‘tea party’ movement cost the GOP control of the Senate. That is, by putting up candidates from the extreme right in two states -- Delaware and Nevada -- the movement blew an opportunity for Republicans to defeat highly vulnerable Democrats there. I’d add a third state to the list: California.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina isn’t generally listed among the tea party candidates, but she probably should have been. Not only was she endorsed before the primary by Sarah Palin, she actively campaignedat tea party meetings. Unlike Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, who took on more moderate positions after the primary, Fiorina remained true to the hard-right values that thrill movement activists. Two factors probably explain why Fiorina isn’t lumped in with other failed tea party favorites: One of her opponents in the primary, Republican Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, was the choice of the Tea Party Express, if not Palin. And when Palin held an October rally in Anaheim, Fiorina snubbed her by failing to show up.


Whether it’s the fault of the tea party or not, the same phenomenon that doomed GOP Senate candidates Sharron Angle in Nevada and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware also sank Fiorina: She was too far to the right for her state’s electorate. Republicans upset about the success of Democrats in California should ponder what might have been had they put up former congressman Tom Campbell, a moderate, against incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer instead of Fiorina. My bet is that Campbell would have won.

-- Dan Turner

* Photo of Carly Fiorina by Jae C. Hong / AP