Political handicappers rate her a very long shot for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Conventional wisdom holds that she’s really running for the veep slot. But Carly Fiorina has been running an exemplary campaign, working deftly with slim political resources and making few missteps.
She talks, and almost everyone who hears her seems impressed with what she has to say. She has been cheerfully willing to engage every topic presented to her by interviewers, while also zeroing in on targets of opportunity, such as the Planned Parenthood organ-harvesting debacle.
Fiorina has been having a very good week. First, there was an interview with Jake Tapper of CNN, in which she handled the Trump surge (saying that she shares the anger at professional politicians she feels Trump is tapping into), immigration policy, domestic security, and the Planned Parenthood videos:
She tied all of these stories into a theme about voters growing increasingly frustrated while an out-of-touch Beltway elite pays lip service to real problems, and puts real effort into its own agenda. She also neatly zinged Hillary Clinton for hiding from the public and refusing to comment on any of these hot-button issues.
Noting the realities of current polling in the crowded GOP field, Tapper asked Fiorina how she thinks she can break through. “Well, you know, I started my campaign on May 4th,” she replied. “I think the majority of the American people had never heard my name.” She said she was pleased with the progress of her efforts to raise her profile, and noted accurately that polls this early in a presidential primary are rarely predictive of who the nominee will ultimately be.
When Tapper asked about Clinton’s criticism of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s supposedly “extreme” abortion legislation, Fiorina rather deftly took control of the conversation and refused to become a pawn in someone else’s chess game. (Tapper is a fine interviewer, but really, is it fair to expect one candidate to spend her time talking about an argument between two others? If Hillary ever does another interview, will she be repeatedly asked to weigh in on some spat between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump?)
“Let’s also talk about Hillary Clinton’s position,” Fiorina said. “Let’s talk about what ‘extreme’ is. It’s not a life until it leaves the hospital? That’s Hillary Clinton’s position. It’s Hillary Clinton’s position that a 13-year-old girl needs her mother’s permission to go to a tanning salon or get a tattoo, but not to get an abortion. It’s Hillary Clinton’s position that women should not be permitted to look at an ultrasound before an abortion, and yet people who are trying to harvest its body parts can use an ultrasound to make sure that those body parts are preserved, so they can be sold. That, Jake, is extreme.”
Fiorina remained on-message with her point about Americans being tired of the professional political class when she appeared on Fox & Friends:
I wonder if Fiorina will grow exasperated with spending her campaign serving as an expert commentator on the latest pronouncements of Donald Trump, but for the moment, she’s still a good sport about it, and using him to buttress the case for herself as an outsider candidate, and needling him for not focusing his fire upon Madame Hillary. The paramount achievement of the Republican 2016 campaign had better not be getting Lindsey Graham to change his phone number.
“Politics is not a game,” Fiorina said on Fox & Friends, “and it’s not entertainment. It’s deadly serious now. Because unless we solve some of these festering problems, and exhibit leadership to challenge the status quo in Washington, D.C., and exhibit leadership around the world, these times will continue to be perilous.”
She returned to the topic of the Planned Parenthood video, noting that revulsion from watching execs talk about harvesting baby organs is not limited to pro-lifers – “I’m pro-life, but I know plenty of pro-choice women who were horrified by this.” She called on Democrats eager to preserve taxpayer subsidies for the abortion industry to support equal funding for pregnancy centers.
Some time was also spent in the segment on the robust endorsement of former Navy SEAL Leif Babin for Fiorina.
“I think she’s a proven leader, and having served in the military, we need leaders who have been proven, who have been tested… I think she certainly has,” said Babin, to the surprise of his own Fox News interviewers, when they asked for his presidential pick. “She’s someone that I’d certainly be happy to get behind, and I think those currently serving, and my former colleagues, would do the same. I think that she’s someone who would scare our adversaries, because they know that she’s not going to back down. I think folks like Vladimir Putin and Iran would be quaking in their boots if Carly Fiorina were our Commander-in-Chief.”
Fiorina wrapped up the segment with a long list of the foreign-policy issues Hillary Clinton has been “dead wrong” about, including declaring “victory” in Iraq and clearing the way for ISIS to invade, treating Syria’s Bashar Assad as a reformer, trusting the Russians, and of course Benghazi. Other Republicans take note: Benghazi is much fresher in the public mind than the media wants you to think, especially when used as part of a general critique of how Clinton is always wrong about everything.
On Thursday night, Fiorina was a guest on Mark Levin’s radio show (podcasts available here; Fiorina’s segment begins about 90 minutes into the broadcast from 7/23/15.)
She spoke about the danger of Obama and his Secretaries of State, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, “rewarding bad behavior” from Russia, Syria, Cuba, Iran… and, interestingly, Libya. (Yes, Clinton pushed Obama into toppling the Qaddafi regime, but they walked away from the unholy mess they left behind, and lately the big question has been whether ISIS will be able to take Libya away from Islamist warlords, other terrorist gangs, and a tottering U.S.-backed government.)
Fiorina noted that even if the U.S. Congress can stop Obama’s terrible Iran deal, the rest of the world – Russia, China, and Europe – has already “moved on,” so money will begin flowing into the terror state.
“What I have said I would do, on Day One in the Oval Office, is make two phone calls,” she said. “First, to Bibi Netanyahu, my good friend, to assure him we would stand with the state of Israel. And second, to the Supreme Leader of Iran… who might not take the phone call, but the message is clear: Until, and unless, you allow real anytime and anywhere inspections of every military facility and every nuclear facility, we’re going to cut off your access to the global financial payment system called SWIFT, we’re gonna make it as hard as possible for you to move money around the global financial system… We have to stop the flow of money. We can, unilaterally, without anyone’s permission. And we need to.”
When Levin brought up illegal immigration and “sanctuary cities” where federal law is openly nullified, Fiorina used it as an example of the “professional political class” pursuing an agenda at odds with the majority of the American people. She traced the immigration problem back through 25 years of neglect for border security and citizenship law. “It isn’t rocket science to secure the border,” she said. “It takes money, yeah, it takes manpower, it takes technology… but mostly, apparently, it takes political willpower. And the reason I’m running for President is because I think we need a different kind of leadership now, that will actually challenge the status quo of Washington, actually get something done, and solve these festering problems.”
She listed border security and fixing the legal immigration system among her top issues if she won the Presidency, along with repealing ObamaCare, rolling back onerous EPA regulations that keep America from becoming a world-class energy competitor, and repealing some of Obama’s other dubious executive orders.
She said her three main focuses would be restarting economic growth by challenging crony capitalism, reducing the size of government, and changing the current welfare incentives that make it irrational for some people to seek employment; reforming government through such techniques as zero-baseline budgeting – no more modest reductions in the rate of unstoppable growth portrayed as savage cuts! – and increasing accountability for public officials; and restoring American leadership around the world.
If she raises her profile in the race and gets into the top tier, she’ll be expected to provide far more in the way of specific plans. Everyone talks about reducing waste, fraud, and abuse in government programs, for example, including the people who turned them into bloated pinatas of corruption.
Fiorina is pitching herself as the candidate best able to take the fight to Hillary Clinton, discussing her qualifications at some length with Mark Levin. There are some pitfalls to that campaign strategy, including the chance that Clinton won’t be the nominee. No matter who she might face in the general election, however, she has to get past her primary opponents first, and they’ll warn about how outsider candidacies are flights of fancy. She’s putting a keen edge on her response that insider rule of Washington is a nightmare.