The ‘Anti-Hillary,’ Carly Fiorina, Officially Enters the Presidential Race

A long shot, but a formidable challenge to Hillary Clinton, Fioria has a broad cross-appeal to women, business Republicans, and the conservative base.

By Rachel Alexander Published on May 5, 2015

Declaring that “our nation was intended to be a citizen government, and somehow we’ve come to this place in our nation’s history where we think we need a professional political class,” on Monday Carly Fiorina announced her candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination. The former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and 2010 Republican candidate for senator made her announcement on Good Morning America.

“Because I understand how the economy actually works,” she said, “I understand the world, who’s in it, how the world works, I understand bureaucracies, and that’s what our federal government has become — a giant, bloated, unaccountable, corrupt bureaucracy.” Fiorina, the first woman to lead a Fortune 20 company, moved to Hewlett-Packard from Lucent, where she had worked her way up from secretary. One of the most powerful women in business during her tenure at Hewlett-Packard, she has been criticized for laying off 30,000 employees and was forced out as CEO in 2005.

Fiorina has surprised political observers with her conservatism. She has rallied the party’s conservative base with her pointed jabs at Hillary Clinton. “Unlike Mrs. Clinton,” she said recently, “I know that flying is an activity, not an accomplishment.” She is president  of the American Conservative Union Foundation, and was all over CPAC this year. On abortion, she has said, “Liberals believe that flies are worth protecting but that the life of an unborn child is not.”

She has said a few things that have raised conservative eyebrows, most recently that she was “relieved” six Baltimore police officers were charged in the death of Freddie Gray. The Pulse 2016, a conservative site tracking Republican presidential candidates, gave her a C+ for her handling of the Indiana religious freedom bill controversy. She earned the grade because her remarks were not very clear. While she said a marriage is between a man and a woman, she also seemed to indicate support for gay marriage. She supports civil unions.

Fiorina became active in politics in 2006, working on John McCain’s presidential campaign. In 2008, she became a fundraising chair for the Republican National Committee’s “Victory” initiative. Although she lost the Senate race to incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer, it has recently proven virtually impossible for Republicans to win at the statewide level in California. She blames radical environmentalists for the drought in California, saying, “It comes down to this: Which do we think is more important, families or fish?”

Fiorina credits her mom for advice that helped her get to where she is. “What you are is God’s gift to you,” her mother told her. “What you make of yourself is your gift to God.” Fiorina now devotes much of her time to charitable causes, chairing two philanthropic organizations, Opportunity International and Good360. In 2009, she underwent a double mastectomy for breast cancer and fully recovered.

Can Fiorina Beat Hillary and the Boys?

The GOP primary is heavily stacked with candidates that appeal to the Christian conservative base. While Fiorina has some cross-appeal there, she will also attract business Republicans and the female vote. Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin observed, “[S]he is a different kind of woman candidate for Republicans. She’s no Sarah Palin or former representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). She is poised, polished, sophisticated and knowledgeable about the world. Moreover, she is not a woman politician; she is an accomplished woman running for political office.”

Republicans have had trouble winning the female vote since the Ronald Reagan years. As the only female candidate on the GOP side, Fiorina could peel away votes from Hillary in the general election. She will also be able to attack Hillary more readily than the male candidates. With her glass-ceiling-shattering level of business success, Fiorina can refute Hillary’s feminist rhetoric that there is a war on women. The New Republic is calling her “the anti-Hillary.”

The Democrats will use her tech leadership against her. While some accounts portray her as very successful, the left will point out that she is included on several lists of the worst CEOs.

Fiorina is polling the poorest among the major GOP candidates, with less than one percent in Iowa, but that may because until recently it was not clear that she would run. She has said she intends to raise enough money for a top-tier presidential campaign, but she is still viewed by many as a long shot.

What could give her an edge is the primary debates. She is a gifted speaker, considered better than many of the competing candidates. A long series of debates could propel her candidacy into contention for the nomination.

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