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« Boehner: GOP In The Mainstream | Blog Home Page | Strategy Memo: Working Overtime »

California Senate: The Next NY-23?

Carly Fiorina's nascent Senate campaign won the public backing Thursday of eight Republican senators, whose personal politics run the gamut on the GOP political spectrum. The early endorsements from the senators could serve as a boon to Fiorina's credentials. It could also further drive a wedge between the national party and conservatives who feel the party is turning its back on them.

The senators, some of whom are reportedly hosting a fundraiser for her in Washington later this month, include the GOP's 2008 presidential nominee and the Senate's minority leader and whip: John McCain (Ariz.), Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Olympia Snowe (Maine).

Fiorina's endorsement by Coburn -- a celebrated conservative for his demand for fiscal discipline in Congress -- particularly stands out, and perhaps could be a bridge Fiorina needs to the conservative wing of her party.

"One of Carly's greatest strengths is that she has never served in elected office," Coburn said, according to a press release from the Fiorina campaign. "Carly's common sense and fiscal conservatism will be a welcome addition to the United State Senate."

However, some grassroots conservatives around the country have already begun supporting California Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, Fiorina's more-conservative primary opponent. DeVore, in an interview with RealClearPolitics, said the opinions of elected officials from inside the Beltway will hardly make a difference in the race.

"It's not surprising at all to me that the Republican establishment would come in behind her," said DeVore, who claims the support of 60 percent of Republican state office holders. "The only surprise I have is that it wasn't more than eight."

DeVore said he represents a "principled Republicanism," unlike some of the senators who supported Fiorina.

Although Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said the committee would not spend money in contested Republican primaries, it is promoting fundraisers for select candidates, including Fiorina and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. Also, the Associated Press reported today that the NRSC is hosting a fundraiser for an Arkansas Senate candidate, State Sen. Gilbert Baker, who has six primary opponents.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) endorsed DeVore earlier this week, adding to his activity in contested primaries. DeMint was also an early endorser of Marco Rubio in the Florida Senate race. Rubio is taking on Crist, who was endorsed by the NRSC and Senate leadership minutes after officially entering the race.

The primary race has already become reminiscent of one that ended badly for the party this week. Republicans suffered an awkward defeat Tuesday in the special election for New York's 23rd District, where the national party initially supported the Republican nominee while conservatives from around the country backed Doug Hoffman, who was running on the Conservative Party line.

The Club for Growth, which offered considerable financial assistance to Hoffman, has not decided whether it will endorse a candidate in the California Senate race, or whom it would endorse if it does. The organization, which demands fiscal conservatism in its candidates, has already announced it will not be backing other establishment-supported Senate candidates, including Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.).