Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is riding high after her sterling performance in last Wednesday’s GOP debate. She did more than prove she deserved to be on stage: by many accounts, she won.
Yet she still has much to do to convince GOP voters that she deserves the nomination. (Attacking Donald Trump is not a priority: even if he holds his current support, the majority of primary votes are still up for grabs.) Here are three top priorities:
1. Explain her departure from HP. Democrats are preparing to do to Fiorina what they did to Romney: find some workers who were laid off, and blame her for everything that happened to them. Perhaps the best way to deal with the issue is talk openly about her own departure from the company. Sometimes people lose their jobs through no fault of their own. In the high-growth economy she wants to rebuild, it is easier to find new opportunities again.
2. Identify the cause for which she fought–and lost–in California. It took guts to run as a pro-life Republican against liberal Democrat Barbara Boxer for Senate in 2010. And politicians have lost Senate races before going on to win the presidency–when they stood for more than themselves. Abraham Lincoln argued against the expansion of slavery when he lost to Stephen Douglas in Illinois in 1858. What was Fiorina’s cause? She ought to explain.
3. Build the ground game. Fiorina has some catching up to do in the early primary states, where other candidates have had months, if not years, to build their operations. Exposure in the conservative media is proving to be a more potent organizing force than ever before, but air time still doesn’t add up to votes. As she expands her campaign, Fiorina is going to have to make sure she has the boots on the ground to deliver the votes, or all will be for naught.