Carly Fiorina means business.
Actually, that wouldn’t be a bad slogan.
It’s true, though. Since she decided to run for president, she’s analyzed, calculated, learned, practiced, and polished everything about her presentation. She’s worked crowds and taken questions and relentlessly demolished Hillary Clinton’s every word and deed. She’s been at dozens of GOP showcase events, from dinners to forums to summits. And in every case, buzz has followed her, with Republican activists of all stripes marveling at how good she is at this.
On Thursday, she took full advantage of being put at the “kids’ table” debate and took down her opponents simply by being her charming, intelligent, determined, and passionate self. Twitter, Facebook, and the Fox News analysts all agreed: Fiorina won the debate. She should be on the big stage next time around.
Without attacking Trump (the elephant in the room, so to speak—or the RINO, depending on whom you consult about it), she reminded viewers that he has a, shall we say, complicated relationship to the Democrats, and especially to Hillary Clinton. “I didn’t get a phone call from Bill Clinton before I decided to jump in the race. Did any of you?” Of course they didn’t; he hates Republicans.
But that’s the point. Everyone knows that Donald Trump did. Everyone knows that the Clintons went to his wedding and that he gave money to the Clinton Foundation (a piece of judgment that should disqualify him all by itself) and to Clinton herself.
She didn’t say it in a mean way, and she didn’t come off as catty. It was just clever. Not nasty—but clever.
Whenever she got the chance, she added information that many people probably didn’t know about her (given that 60% of Republicans pre-debate had never heard of her, that’s a long list.) She mentioned starting out as a secretary (good story—beats Hillary starting out as a lawyer). She dropped her “good friend Bibi Netanyahu” into the conversation, helping viewers understand you don’t have to be Secretary of State to have relationships with world leaders. It didn’t matter what the other candidates said or did, she stayed on message. Fiorina managed to hit most of the issues Republicans—especially conservative Republicans—care about most right now. She vowed to put a stop to Planned Parenthood’s vile activities, the president’s Executive Orders, and the Iran deal.
Without making a fuss about being a woman, she showed, simply by doing a great job, that if you want a woman to be president, Hillary is not your only choice.
Fiorina had an advantage on her debate stage—not the advantage of being the only woman, but of being the only person there who had extensive experience with foreign leaders. It’s lovely to have been a Senator, but Senators don’t sit down and make deals with the leaders of other nations; they smile and nod and get their pictures taken—and then they go home. Fiorina returned from her trips abroad with agreements and alliances, not just more stamps in her passport.
Should she move up to the Big Show in ensuing debates, however other venues choose to arrange them, it has yet to be seen whether she can hold her own with a Ted Cruz, or a Rand Paul—or The Donald Trump. However, she has a speaking style that seems relaxed and confident. She doesn’t sound like a politician—even though you will have heard much of what she says before, if you were paying attention to all those events with Freedom or Values or Summit in their titles. Like Donald Trump and Ben Carson, she seems unlike a politician, and all signs indicate that American voters are sick to death of politicians.
Of all the candidates, Fiorina, Trump and Cruz seem the least hesitant about taking the fight directly to Hillary (though one gets the feeling she could handle a series of events that resulted in Hillary not getting the nomination). She even called Hillary Clinton a “liar” in an after-event interview with Chris Matthews. When Matthews pretended to not know how Hillary is a liar, Fiorina immediately and without hesitation provided three examples: Benghazi, her emails, and her server. Game, set, match. Matthews could only sputter a quick goodbye.
For primary season voters looking ahead (not necessarily forward) to a long season of winnowing down, the idea of enduring the droning dullness of Bush and Kasich and Pataki—among others—can only be itself endured with a hearty dollop of Trump zestiness and the powerful kick of a Carly Fiorina. Even for those who resonate to Cruz’s ideas, or Jindal’s intellect, or Paul’s fierce Constitutionalism, the bombast of Trump and the punch of Fiorina are a welcome addition to the game.
And Fiorina, in the long run, has an advantage with the voters that Trump does not. She is level-headed and reasonable. If you are strategizing to get any of the voters from the “war on women” electorate the last time around, Trump is probably not going to make the final cut. He’s not likely to be anyone’s vice president, either, but a failed Fiorina is almost guaranteed that spot, no matter who ends up the nominee.
While any of these candidates, Big Show or Kids’ Table, would be better than Hillary, Carly Fiorina stands out as a nominee that would be hard for Hillary to beat.