When former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin takes the stage Saturday at the Anaheim Marriott to rally Republicans for the Nov. 2 election, the state's top two GOP candidates won't be there.
Fiorina's absence is ironic, given how proudly the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive officer trumpeted Palin's endorsement in the Republican primary against former Rep. Tom Campbell and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore.
Fiorina instead plans to attend a get-out-the-vote training session during the rally in El Dorado Hills in the Sacramento area. Saturday morning, she was scheduled to make a campaign appearance in San Diego with Palin's 2008 presidential running mate, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Local, state and national politics
There was no immediate response to a request for comment from the Whitman campaign.
Political observers are not surprised by the snubs because Palin's endorsement could turn off some independent voters.
"Palin is high risk and high gain," said Raphael Sonenshein, a Cal State Fullerton political science professor.
A recent poll conducted by the university showed Whitman and Fiorina in Orange County draw about the same share of Republican votes but "Whitman's getting twice as many Democrats. Fiorina is running a base campaign and Whitman's running to the center and it shows," Sonenshein said.
"Palin is really a complex figure here," Sonenshein added. "But, boy, does she rally the base. She's great for rallying conservative voters."
And that could be handy for Fiorina and Whitman in a mid-term election when the more partisan voters are inclined to cast a ballot.
By skipping the event, the two can perhaps benefit from higher Republican turnout without turning off decline-to-state voters, said Louis DeSipio, an associate professor of political science at UC Irvine.
"They get the private benefit without the public cost," DeSipio said.
Whitman likely didn't want to join Palin at the Anaheim event because, "There's a history there dating back to the primaries," DeSipio said.
"She and the Palin wing of the party didn't see eye to eye," DeSipio said.
Whitman supported former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the race for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.
At this point in the election season, the aim is to churn out voters, DeSipio said.
"All of the races will be determined by turnout," DeSipio said. "What can you do to mobilize your base without alienating the decline-to-state and independent voters who might turn out and vote for you."
The biggest local beneficiary will be Assemblyman Van Tran, who is trying to unseat Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove, the professors said.
Tran, one of McCain's earliest supporters in his presidential run and who stuck by him when his campaign was struggling in the summer leading up to the Iowa caucuses, said he is excited to get Palin's help.
"Palin will able to mobilize and excite the base and that is important because we are literally two weeks out from the election and it is important that our base shows up and votes," said Tran, R-Garden Grove.
Tran declined to speculate on whether Palin's endorsement could help or hurt some candidates.
"I don't have a crystal ball. I don't want to play pundit on whether she helps or hurts," Tran said. "But I know as a matter of fact she helps mobilize people."
Tran briefly met Palin when she campaigned for McCain in Newport Beach in September 2008.
"She seems to be a very nice lady," Tran said. "We didn't have a deep, thoughtful conversation because there were thousands of people there. But I'm always happy to have any national figure come to town to excite the base and help with the turnout. It's going to be a good event."
Orange County Republican Party Chairman Scott Baugh also welcomed Palin's visit.
"Palin is a great conservative voice, a great voice for conservatives in Orange County and throughout America," Baugh said.
Tran and Sanchez are locked in a statistical dead heat, according to internal polls on both sides, campaign aides privately acknowledge.
However, Sonenshein and DeSipio think Sanchez has a slight edge because there are a bit more Democratic voters registered than Republicans in the 47th District, which covers Garden Grove and Santa Ana as well as parts of Fullerton and Anaheim.
Estimates of Vietnamese voters in the district varies from 12-18 percent, DeSipio said. Those voters will be more energized in this election, he predicted.