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You can blame us Californians for superhero movies, addictive smartphone apps, and the Korean barbecue taco.

But don’t you dare blame us for Carly Fiorina.

If Republicans in the United States — which has occupied California since the Mexican-American war — want to nominate her for the presidency, that will be America’s fault, not ours.

Yes, Fiorina did her undergraduate studies at Stanford, where her father had taught law. But she wasn’t born here (blame Texas). She was mostly raised in other places — from New York to North Carolina, London to Africa — as her father pursued an academic career. She went to UCLA law school but dropped out to work, before moving to Italy. She completed her education 3,000 miles away, first at the University of Maryland, then at MIT’s Sloan School.

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So why is Fiorina so often identified as a Californian? Because the two most high-profile events of her life — her six years running Hewlett-Packard, and her 2010 campaign for US Senate — took place in our state. In our defense, California rejected her in both cases. But we’re still associated with Fiorina because of the size of her failures.

HP fired Fiorina, but only after she had taken a quintessential California company — started in a garage, with a nimble, open culture — and turned it into a bigger, nastier, and conventionally corporate place. HP hasn’t been the same since.

She turned to politics after that. In 2010, she won a Republican US Senate primary with negative attacks on Tom Campbell, a favorite of Silicon Valley libertarians and almost no one else (he’s lost three statewide races). In the low-turnout general election, she lost by a million votes, and 10 points, to Barbara Boxer, who isn’t exactly a political giant.

Boxer has called Fiorina the nastiest opponent she has ever faced. But few Californians would remember the attacks or anything else about the campaign. Fiorina offered no memorable ideas or policy prescriptions. And the race was eclipsed by high-profile ballot initiative fights and the gubernatorial contest between Jerry Brown and eBay’s Meg Whitman, who is now trying to pick up the pieces as HP’s CEO.

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Fiorina was quickly forgotten. She moved to Virginia, without much public notice here. She has not been missed. If you have any more questions about her, we suggest you should ask the good folks in the Old Dominion.


Joe Mathews is California columnist and editor at Zocalo Public Square. Follow him on Twitter @joemmathews.