Carly Fiorina Challenges Boehner, McConnell Leadership

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “should go” if they don’t pass conservative legislation when Congress reconvenes this week, says former businesswoman Carly Fiorina.

“Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell, I know them both, they’re good men,” Fiorina said Sunday to a gathering of supporters in New Hampshire. “But perhaps they’ve been captured by the status quo.”

Fiorina, the only female among the 17 candidates fighting for the GOP nomination, has been steadily rising in the polls since her well-received performance in the debate “undercard” on August 6th. She is currently 6th in the RealClearPolitics average of polls, tied with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Fiorina is currently benefiting from Republican voters’ embrace of outsider candidates. Last week, a poll from Monmouth University placed her 3rd in Iowa, behind Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Fiorina’s early campaign was built on aggressive, but substantive, attacks on Hillary Clinton’s record. Her pivot Sunday to criticize Republican leadership in Washington indicates she is fully embracing her position as an outsider.

At the event in New Hampshire, Fiorina said Republicans in Congress should pass a ban on post 20-week abortions and defund Planned Parenthood, pass legislation to secure the border, and rein in new regulations from the Obama Administration. She said GOP leaders should force Obama to follow through on his veto threats.

“I think if they did those three things, I would be satisfied that leadership is producing results,” Fiorina said. “And if they can’t produce results then unfortunately leadership should go.”

Fiorina is one of the first candidates to directly address the source of Republican voter frustration fueling the campaigns of political outsiders. While Trump’s dominance of the polls understandably attracts the media focus, the strong showings of Carson, Fiorina and TX Sen. Ted Cruz in the polls are born out of widespread frustration with Boehner and McConnell.

The current rush of voters to outsider candidates doesn’t happen without first feelings among voters of intense disappointment with Republicans in Congress.

This week Congress returns and is likely to pass a government spending plan for the year without any conservative policy changes. Sen. McConnell has already announced the Senate GOP wouldn’t push for defunding Planned Parenthood as part of the debate to keep the government open. It is also possible the Republican spending plan will turn back the “sequester” budget cuts, across the board spending cuts that were first enacted in 2011.

It is also possible that the Republican Congress may use the spending reauthorization to resurrect the Export-Import Bank, which expired at the end of June. The Depression era Bank provides taxpayer financing to foreign entities to purchase American products. Its reauthorization is a top priority of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a few mega-corporations. Conservative critics argue the bank does little more than underwrite crony-capitalism.

It is becoming clear that the Republican nomination is as much about GOP leadership in Washington as it is about who is better positioned to defeat Hillary Clinton or another Democrat nominee. Republicans have long had an existential fear of the Clinton political machine.

The campaigns of a number of candidates have been predicated on little more than who was best to challenge Hillary. As the fundamental weakness of a Hillary candidacy become abundantly clear, even to Democrats, that subjective quality is less urgent.

The Republican nomination is morphing into a battle for the heart and soul of the Republican party itself. Arguably, Boehner and McConnell have been horrible stewards of the GOP. The failures of the Obama Administration have gifted Republicans political power they haven’t had in a century. Congressional Republican leadership have shown that they are not up to the task.

For at least two decades, Republican voters have been desperately searching for another Ronald Reagan, who was also far outside the Washington Republican establishment.