Carly Fiorina’s victory lap – Politico
Republicans observed Carly Fiorina Day Thursday, celebrating the former Hewlett-Packard CEO’s standout performance at the Reagan Library debate the evening before.
Phones were ringing off the hook at CARLY for America, the super PAC that’s essentially running FIorina’s ground game. Keith Appell, a senior adviser to the super PAC, said it was too early to know anything certain but all signs pointed to a post-debate surge in fundraising.
In the field, there were similar signs that Fiorina was on the rise. She is already slated for an Iowa swing next week that’s set to include stops in Iowa City, Davenport, and Dubuque, and in the wake of the second debate, the campaign is fielding a slew of additional invitations, including from a college and a county party.
“Here’s what I know,” said Christopher Rants, her Iowa state chairman. “I’m going to need a bigger room. I’m going to need a bigger venue. I had three messages before 7 A.M., ‘Can Carly come here?’ which is great, that’s exactly what we want. We’re just continuing to build the momentum.”
It’s a dramatic shift for a campaign that muddled through a summer of slow fundraising and the indignity of getting bumped to the second-tier debate in August.
“The consensus among us,” said Appell, “is that last night really reset the race.”
Fiorina is suddenly the party’s “it” candidate — and her bare-bones campaign is scrambling to take advantage. The first step was the morning television show circuit Thursday morning, where Fiorina made appearances on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” NBC’s “Today” show, CNN’s “New Day,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” “Fox and Friends” and “CBS This Morning.”
“What we saw in the last debate, August 6, where less than 40 percent of the people had heard my name… what we saw was a big bump in fundraising,” she said on “CBS This Morning.” “We saw a bump in the polls, and I suspect and hope that we’ll see the same thing out of this debate.”
If nothing else, Fiorina has firmly established herself as a top-tier candidate after nearly failing to make the primetime stage in the second debate. Her crisp delivery, pitch-perfect handling of Donald Trump and sharp Planned Parenthood critique drew rave reviews from the conservative media and state party leaders across the map.
“Do I anticipate that things will get significantly better? Yeah, I do,” said Appell, addressing the question of fundraising. “They already have. The more she breaks through in these debates, the more that’s going to feed our strategy of going for the long haul. There are a lot of people in this race, nobody wants to get out, we understand that, but we think she was the clear winner last night. The more people see of her, the more she gets support on the ground, in the bank and everywhere else.”
Added Donna Sytek, a former New Hampshire state House speaker who is currently uncommitted but has Fiorina in her top three, “I thought Carly knocked it out of the park, I really did. I was so impressed with her when she did the “happy hour” [Aug. 6] debate, and was glad to see her onstage with the big boys. She absolutely held her own.”
The challenge now is to sustain that momentum, no easy task in a field of 16 candidates where a number of them, most notably Scott Walker, have already lived through boom-and-bust cycles. She is in competition with Trump and Ben Carson to seize the “outsider” mantle, and is about to enter a period of elevated scrutiny. A strong performance in her first debate led other campaigns to begin quietly raising questions about her tenure at Hewlett-Packard — an issue Trump hammered on in the debate Wednesday — and if she continues moving up, he won’t be the only one publicly taking shots.
“You know she’s going to be a threat to other candidates when they start going after her record at HP and educating people about the pluses and minuses,” said Fergus Cullen, the former chairman of the New Hampshire GOP. “There’s a devastating 30-second TV ad to be made about that, no one wants to be the one who puts that up on the air, but if she’s a real threat to somebody that’s what will happen in the end.”
Fiorina has an opening to make further inroads with GOP women, who are less likely to support Trump than are Republican men, according to recent polls, especially in light of remarks he made last week about her physical appearance.
A preview of Fiorina’s appeal to Republican women came last weekend, when she fired back at Trump at a convention hosted by the National Federation of Republican Women, and went on to resoundingly win the straw poll there.
“Ladies, look at this face,” she told the crowd, playing off Trump’s comment. “This is the face of a 61-year-old woman. I am proud of every year and every wrinkle.”
Her super PAC turned that moment into a well-received ad ahead of the debate, and Fiorina seized on that moment again during Wednesday night.
“I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said,” she said to applause.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, an influential conservative who heads the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List organization, said Fiorina’s response to Trump Wednesday night “was magic.”
“She doesn’t have to be supercilious and preachy, she just has to be who she is: above the nonsense,” Dannenfelser said, lauding a debate performance which she said resonated with Republican women. “You worry sometimes about peaking too early, but I don’t believe she’s peaked yet. People haven’t seen enough of her yet.”
Fiorina held her own with Trump Wednesday during several confrontations, something other candidates have struggled to do. And unlike other rivals who have tangled with Trump, she has so far only emerged stronger as a result.