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Nancy Reagan backs Fiorina, Whitman [Updated]

September 15, 2010 |  5:30 pm

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U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina and Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman secured the official backing Wednesday of Nancy Reagan after a rare joint meeting with the two candidates and the former First Lady Tuesday.

The Fiorina campaign released a photograph of the three women at their Tuesday morning meeting at a private residence in Los Angeles. But a Fiorina spokeswoman declined to offer any additional details about how the meeting was arranged or what was discussed.

In a brief statement released by the campaign Reagan said she "enjoyed meeting and talking” with Fiorina. “I believe she knows what needs to be done to move our country forward,” she said.

[Updated: 4:53 p.m.] Whitman released a similar statement Wednesday. In the statement, Reagan said "I am impressed with [Whitman's] ideas. I am confident she will be a good governor

Fiorina said she was “honored and humbled” by the endorsement: “She and I share the same core values, and I am thankful to have her confidence and support behind my campaign for U.S. Senate."

Reagan has avoided the rough-and-tumble political arena in recent years. She waited until late March of 2008 to endorse then Republican presidential candidate John McCain, explaining to reporters outside her Bel Air home that she and her husband “always waited until everything was decided, and then we endorsed.”

But she and Fiorina differ on at least one significant issue. Reagan has been an outspoken advocate for research using embryonic stem cells. In a 2004 speech she said stem cell research held promise for curing illnesses like Alzheimer's disease, which she said had taken her husband "to a distant place where I can no longer reach him.”

Fiorina has staked out more of a middle ground on that issue. During the former Hewlett Packard chief executive’s first debate with her Democratic opponent Barbara Boxer earlier this month she said she was comfortable with directing federal funding toward adult stem cells, as well as embryos that would have been destroyed otherwise. She added that “It is when embryos are produced for the purposes of destruction, for the purposes of stem cell research that I have a great deal of difficulty."

-- Maeve Reston

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