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'Toxic' touch? Why Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman shy from Sarah Palin.

Sarah Palin is set to appear at a GOP fundraiser two weeks ahead of the Nov 2. election, but neither Meg Whitman nor Carly Fiorina – both big-name Republicans – is planning to attend.

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Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks at the Republican Party of Iowa's Reagan Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, on September 17.

Brian C. Frank/Reuters

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Reports that California Republican gubernatorial and Senate candidates Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina will be no-shows at a widely promoted Republican National Committee (RNC) fundraiser Oct. 16 should perhaps come as no surprise.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has been given top-billing at the event, and both candidates, caught in down-to-the-wire midterm election battles, are trying to distance themselves from her brand of "tea party" politics, say political experts.

[Both Ms. Whitman and Ms. Fiorina] "need to get independent voters," and the broad themes of the tea party "don’t play well with" those voters, says Barbara O’Connor, director of the Institute for Study of Politics and Media at California State University, Sacramento.

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