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Carly Fiorina: Rising to the Challenge

Carly Fiorina announced that she is joining the race for the presidency. CNN tags her as a “long-shot White House contender,” and that has been the prevailing view of the news outlets. But Fiorina has been steadily gaining steam with conservative voters in the lead-up to today’s announcement.

She had a major break-out moment in February, with her speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Even among the many A-list speakers, she stood out for her forthrightness and her willingness to take on both President Obama and Hillary Clinton:

Yes, Mr. President, ISIS, indeed, wants to drive the whole world back the Middle Ages, but the rest of us moved on about 800 years ago, and while you seek moral equivalence, the world waits for moral clarity and American leadership.

She also elicited strong applause from the CPAC audience for her criticism of Hilary Clinton:

Mrs. Clinton, name an accomplishment. And in the meantime, please explain why we should accept that the millions and millions of dollars that have flowed into the Clinton Global Initiative from foreign governments doesn’t represent a conflict of interest.

Fiorina also told her own story–rising from filing and typing to becoming to CEO of Hewlett Packard. But rather than make the story a celebration of her own greatness, she offered it as proof of our nation’s greatness:

I know that it is only in this country, that a young woman can go from secretary to CEO, and that is because our Founders knew what my mother taught me, everyone has God-given gifts–everyone has potential, often far more than they realize.

Fiorina’s new book, Rising to the Challenge: My Leadership Journey, which will be released tomorrow, makes clear that where the left sees a victim, she sees potential. Where the left sees a future recipient of government aid, Fiorina sees a future engine for growth and prosperity.

While the events of Baltimore post-date the writing of the book, she focuses on the broad problem—well-intentioned liberal programs causing systemic unemployment, poverty, and hopelessness. She tells the story of farm workers now stranded and unemployed in Mendota, Calfornia, which has been transformed from productive farmland into the Appalachia of the West, with 40 percent unemployment because of water policies enforced on them by liberals in the state legislature.

The policy solutions she lays out in the book should have strong appeal for conservative voters: “We must begin a systematic reexamination of every government program and every law and regulation on the books,” “we must push as many programs and as much decision making to the states as possible,” and we need “a vastly simplified tax code and regulatory regime…”

While her tenure at Hewlett Packard is already proving to be a key vulnerability, her intimate understanding of technology helps her to stand out from other candidates. This is no small detail, given the central role that failed or outdated technology has played in the roll-out of Obamacare and in the VA scandal, and that the U.S. government seems unable to move beyond 1980s technology.

“Bureaucracies were invented to maintain control,” she writes. “The twenty-first century cannot be controlled. It can be leveraged and harnessed, but it cannot be controlled. Only ingenuity, flexibility, and creativity can prevail.”

For those who might be inclined to accept the mainstream media’s quick dismissal of Fiorina as a long-shot, her book demonstrates that she has the conservative grounding of Sarah Palin combined with the gravitas of Margaret Thatcher. That may prove to be a winning combination.

Katie Gorka is president of the Council on Global Security. @katharinegorka

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