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How did Carly Fiorina become an anti-abortion hero?

I thought it was significant that Sarah Palin spent a portion of her speech to the Susan B. Anthony List fundraising breakfast defending and explaining her endorsement of Carly Fiorina in California, calling the former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard "the real deal." But it made sense if you look past the glitz (if that's the word) of "tea party" endorsements and over to the anti-abortion groups that have powered past GOP wins.

Fiorina, the only woman in a three-way Senate primary with Chuck DeVore and Tom Campbell, has scored the endorsements of the National Right to Life Committee and the California ProLife Council. After struggling to win over conservatives whose only knowledge of her was her work for Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) presidential bid, Fiorina has used the life issue as a wedge to pull conservative voters away from the tea party favorite, DeVore.

According to Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, it was Fiorina who courted the pro-life group for its support. They didn't need much convincing.

"I have been at this for a while, and I have not come across anyone who has articulated the life issue better than she does," Dannenfelser told me. "As a woman, as someone who's unable to have children -- no one has articulated it better."

In its campaign material, the SBA List calls Fiorina the candidate whom anti-abortion activists have "been waiting for since the day Barbara Boxer was elected." The reason, Dannenfelser said, is that Fiorina would shatter a stereotype -- that successful women, naturally, have to be in favor of abortion rights.

"If you were a strong woman in politics or corporate life," Dannenfelser said, "most people assumed you were going to be pro-choice. That's a fading stereotype, but apart from Sarah Palin there are not many prominent women who are challenging it yet. We hoped Elizabeth Dole could do that -- she was pro-life, but she wasn't very vocal about it."

For some reason, when Fiorina got into this race, a number of the conservatives I spoke to assumed she was socially liberal. And at that point, she really was a blank slate politically. But she's dug in on the life issue, and Democrats are hopeful that if it powers her through the primary, it will make her path to election massively more difficult in the fall.

By David Weigel  |  May 17, 2010; 1:36 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Election , Abortion  
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