Carly Fiorina has little if any chance of becoming the Republican presidential nominee in 2016, let alone America’s next president, but she seems undeterred, and labors on tirelessly, making the obligatory pit stops in key states, delivering painstaking policy speeches at places like the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, and holding telephonic town-hall meetings with call-ins from citizens who embrace her conservative views.
During one such forum on Thursday, Fiorina had just heard dispiriting news. A new Quinnipiac University national poll of Republicans and Republican leaners showed she would receive a minuscule one percent of the vote if the Republican presidential primary were held today. Worse, her support has slipped from 2 percent in May to 1 percent in July.
In a field of 17 GOP presidential candidates, she is the only woman, and is running nearly last against current and former Republican senators and governors and a rogue New York real estate millionaire who is leading the polls. Fiorina gets lost among big names like Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. Right now she’s barely hanging on to the bottom rung along with Rick Santorum, a former far-right U.S. senator from Pennsylvania.
Launching her campaign in May, Fiorina was given little chance to break through in that derby. She, for one, holds no office and has never been elected to anything. She has a mixed record in the high-tech world where she excelled for a time but left wounded. Her experience as Hewlett-Packard’s chief executive officer was not a resounding success by all accounts. Since then, she has lost in a run for the seat held by a California Democratic Party stalwart, Senator Barbara Boxer.
Today, at the telephone town-hall meeting, a supporter asked her how she planned to get more media exposure given the size of the GOP presidential field. Without missing a beat, she said that at this point in previous presidential primary campaigns, the polls and the money said that Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton could not win the nominations of their parties, let alone the presidency. “It’s a long process,” she said, her voice slightly hoarse. “I am going to do what I have been doing. I will keep talking to the people.”
She’s been doing that for months, though at times she seems to be conducting a one-way conversation. Last month, for instance, she gave a speech in Washington and issued a paper to redefine feminism. Though it received some attention in conservative women’s circles—Christina Hoff Sommers, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, called her “a welcome voice”—it was generally ignored by the mainstream media and ridiculed by Business Insider, the New Republic, and Salon.
With her manifesto, “Redefining Feminism,” she forged a sound bite: “A feminist is a woman who lives the life she chooses. We will have arrived when every woman can decide for herself how to best find and use her God-given gifts.” But she didn’t address what appears to be a contradiction. She opposes the right of a woman to choose abortion yet supports a woman’s right to choose her own life.
Domestic policy is every candidate’s bread and butter, but foreign policy confers gravitas. Recently Fiorina delivered a speech on foreign policy issues—again, at the Reagan Presidential Library—saying, among other things, that her first phone call as president would be to Bibi Netanyahu in Israel and her second to the Supreme Leader of Iran. She defined China as “our rising adversary.”
But her arrows targeted not a foreign leader, friend or foe, but Hillary Clinton. Referring to Clinton’s decisions as secretary of state, Fiorina said: “Mrs. Clinton personally gave the Russians a ‘reset button’ just as the human rights situation in that country took a drastic turn for the worse. And in Iran, when the green movement demonstrated against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, she went silent. China, Russia, Iran, and terrorist groups such as ISIS, these are the big human rights tests of our time. Women and girls are systematically targeted, subjugated, murdered, raped and sold into bondage. It is the height of hypocrisy for Mrs. Clinton to run for president as a champion of ‘women’s rights’ when her record as secretary of state is so dismal.”
But today’s town-hall meeting mostly focused on domestic issues, and none was more sensitive than abortion. Answering a question from an Iowa man, she said, “I have been forthright about this, I am pro-life, and science is proving us right. The majority of Americans, the majority of women, oppose abortion after the first five months of pregnancy.” Inevitably, she brought up the three covertly shot videos of Planned Parenthood leaders discussing fetal tissue donation.
“You cannot watch those videos and not be horrified,’’ she said. And then, directing another shot at Clinton, she said, “That’s Hillary Clinton’s belief, that’s the Democrat Party platform.” She went on: “Discussing body parts, using technology to harvest those body parts…this is an issue of where our federal dollars go. They should not be going to Planned Parenthood.”
And she took on another GOP phobia. “Obamacare has to be repealed,” she said. “It is a monstrosity. It’s failing by every measurement.”
Asked about recent Supreme Court rulings, specifically on marriage equality, she said, “I spoke out on those decisions. The court overstepped. I would appoint men and women like my father. He believed it was not his job to interpret the law or rewrite the Constitution.”
When a supporter from Camden, New York, offered his prayers for her, she said, “I feel people’s prayers every day. I also want to say, you have influence beyond what you know. People are most influenced by people they know. So tell them, ‘Pay attention to Carly Fiorina.’”