Sunday, June 17, 2001.
What a different world it was back then — pre-9/11, pre-iPhone, pre-Facebook. Do you remember where you were? Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina likely recall where they were. It was Father’s Day and, on the campus of Stanford University in California, it was also graduation day. The most notable graduate was Chelsea Clinton. Hillary, then a U.S. Senator from New York, and Bill were among the many proud parents in the audience, and the commencement speaker that day was none other than Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. That’s one of the interesting nuggets that turns up in PEOPLE magazine’s new exclusive interview with the surging GOP hopeful. Fiorina said she met Clinton that day, and then again in 2008.
Fiorina, who essentially launched her campaign by positioning herself as the anti-Hillary Clinton, found some kind words for the only other woman chasing the White House in the 2016 race. “I feel empathy with every woman who is working really hard and giving it all they’ve got — and Hillary is,” Fiorina told PEOPLE. “She’s smart, she’s hardworking, she’s giving it all she’s got.”
Whoa, is that the same Carly Fiorina whose super-PAC supporters sniped at the pantsuit joke Hillary made earlier this year to announce that she’d joined Instagram? The same Carly Fiorina who taunted Clinton in a CNN Op-Ed by challenging her to “name an accomplishment”? The same one who said “Hillary Clinton has lied” about Benghazi and her private email server? Fiorina even goes on to say that she has “enormous admiration” for Clinton. If that’s true, she has a funny way of showing it.
Or maybe something has sparked an abrupt turnaround.
Following her breakout performance at the second Republican debate last week, The New York Times published an analysis that pegged Fiorina as the GOP’s “pathway to reach women.” In that article, one Republican strategist described her as the “magic key that can unlock the gender gap.”
Fiorina has also surged in recent polls, including the latest CNN/ORC poll that shows her in second place, making a dramatic gain on frontrunner Donald Trump.
Perhaps now that her campaign is viable — she spent most of the summer barely registering in the polls and hammering away at Clinton — Fiorina is beginning to move to the center, knowing she’ll need to win-over independent voters and maybe even some Democrats who are waffling on Clinton as problems surrounding her private email server continue to mount.
In the Stanford commencement address, as Hillary Clinton looked on, the primary theme that emerged was that of fear and how Fiorina dealt with the numerous pivotal moments in her life that she said she felt scared — arriving at Stanford and then graduating in 1976, leaving law school, becoming the CEO at HP.
Now that she has real momentum, and actually has something to lose, she may be experiencing fear again.
“What will you do with your fear? Will you let it become a motivator, or an inhibitor?” Fiorina asked the Stanford graduates that day sunny day in 2001. Those are questions she very well could be asking herself now.
Correction: A previous version of this story indicated that Carly Fiorina commented on Hillary Clinton’s pantsuit joke on Instagram. It was not Fiorina who issued a statement, it was the Carly For America super-PAC, which supports Fiorina, that reacted to the joke.