Carly Fiorina: Legitimate Contender?

Carly Fiorina impressed everyone at the last Republican debate with her eloquence, intelligence, and powerful ability to articulate ideas. Fiorina emerged victorious from the debate and has garnered national media attention.

Michael Warren of The Weekly Standard wrote: “Carly, as everyone knows her, is less Sarah Palin and more Ronald Reagan, a natural storyteller with a quick wit and an ear for emotional narratives.”

Carly has lived the American dream. She started her career as a secretary at a small real estate firm and eventually became the chief executive of the largest technology company in the world. In 1998, Fortune magazine recognized her as the most powerful woman in business.

Since her time at HP, Carly battled breast cancer, worked for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, and waged an unsuccessful Senate campaign against Barbara Boxer, one of the most powerful Democrats in Congress.

The 62-year-old former Hewlett-Packard CEO announced her candidacy for president last May. Prior to the first debate, Fiorina had a disappointing 39% name recognition and 23% likability, and consistently polled between one and two percent.

After two impressive debate performances, Fiorina has skyrocketed to second place. According to a new CNN poll, she now has 15% Republican support while Donald Trump’s poor debate performance has diminished his lead from 32% to 24%. 

This new wave of support for Carly has inevitably drawn attacks from both the left and her opponents on the right. Her political opponents have relentlessly attacked her record as CEO of HP.

At first glance, the numbers do not support Carly’s claim of a successful business career. During her tenure as CEO, HP laid off nearly 30,000 workers and its stock tanked over 60%. Additionally, she faced widespread criticism for her $19 billion acquisition of Compaq. In 2005, HP board member Tom Perkins fired Fiorina in a “board room brawl” and she received a $21 million severance package.

Critics often overlook the economic climate during Fiorina’s tenure. She led the company through the dotcom bubble. The NASDAQ Composite lost 80% of its value and has taken 15 years to recover. Those conditions would force any executive of a technology company to make tough cuts.

When questioned about her record at HP at the recent CNN debate, Fiorina said, “Despite those difficult times, we doubled the size of the company, we quadrupled its top line growth rate, we quadrupled its cash flow, we tripled its rate of innovation.” She added, “We went from lagging behind to leading in every product category and every market segment.”

In August, a New York Times article reported that former HP board member Tom Perkins regretted his decision to fire Fiorina and argued that a dysfunctional board resulted in Fiorina’s termination. He praised Fiorina’s record at HP, saying, “not only did she save the company from the dire straits it was in, she laid the foundation for HP’s future growth.”

This election cycle, the Republican base appears to favor candidates lacking prior political experience. Trump, Fiorina, and Carson all lead in the polls. Although she has never held political office, Fiorina continues to capitalize on her “outsider” status. Fiorina has already captivated the GOP base in the last debate with her stance on Russia, criticism of Planned Parenthood, and her position on the Iran deal.

When she announced her candidacy, pundits dismissed her as inexperienced and unqualified. It’s still too early to predict the nominee, but if Carly continues to perform well on the campaign trail, America may elect its first woman president.