With her polling numbers, and maybe even her entire campaign, fading as Wednesday night’s third GOP debate gave the candidates and the moderators (indeed the whole viewing audience) whiplash, Carly Fiorina returned to the very position that she began crafting even before she officially launched her 2016 bid: the anti-Hillary Clinton.
The moment came late in the debate, during her closing statement — a Hail Mary, if you will.
“It is the height of hypocrisy for Mrs. Clinton to talk about being the first woman president when every single policy she espouses, and every single policy of President Obama, has been demonstrably bad for women,” Fiorina railed. “Ninety-two percent of the jobs lost during Barack Obama’s first term belonged to women,” she continued.
The criticism was a dramatic departure from the kinder, gentler approach Fiorina than has displayed in recent weeks. Just a month ago, Fiorina was lavishing praise upon Clinton, telling PEOPLE magazine, “She’s smart, she’s hardworking, she’s giving it all she’s got.”
If you didn’t have whiplash from all of the clashes between candidates and moderators up until that point, it was hard to escape the injury from yet another abrupt flip-flop by Fiorina.
Moments after the debate wrapped up, Fiorina declared that Clinton is “bad for women” in a post on Twitter, using the barb as a call for supporters to “Chip in $3.”
And what about the veracity of Fiorina’s claims?
According to a fact-check by The New York Times, Fiorina’s claim is “flawed”:
“In January 2009, the month President Obama’s first term began, 66.9 million women were employed in the United States, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In January of 2013, when his first term ended, that number had risen slightly, to 67.1 million. Overall employment similarly rose slightly, from 142.15 million to 143.32 million, meaning the pattern of employment among women in Obama’s first term was similar to the pattern among men.”
The Washington Post published a similar fact-check, describing the claim against Obama and the criticism of Clinton’s platform as “dramatic but pretty flawed.”
When Fiorina was confronted with The Washington Post’s analysis during an appearance on CNN Thursday morning, she stood her ground and doubled down, saying that “the number of women living in poverty is at the highest level in 20 years.”
“And every single policy that Hillary Clinton is now proposing demonstrably — we have evidence that suggests — causes women to be fired, not to be hired. The record is very clear on that,” Fiorina added.
One person who doesn’t seem worried about the claims is Hillary Clinton. She shrugged off Fiorina’s attacks (and the many attacks of the other Republican candidates) with a snarky post on Twitter that contained a gif of her brushing off her shoulder that was made from a clip of footage at last week’s Benghazi testimony (a move that drew criticism from Marco Rubio).
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 29, 2015
And the latest polling suggests that Fiorina is not whom Clinton should be worried about. According to a national Economist/YouGov poll released on Wednesday, Fiorina has just three percent of support among likely Republican voters, good for eighth place among her GOP rivals.
The former Hewlett-Packard executive finished her closing statement with some dramatic flair, acknowledging her slipping poll numbers. “I may not be your dream candidate just yet,” she said, “but I can assure you I am Hillary Clinton’s worst nightmare. And in your heart of hearts, you cannot wait to see a debate between Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina.”
On that point, she’s dead right. A Clinton-Fiorina debate would be fantastic political theater. Too bad it will never happen.