by James Poulos | September 24, 2015 5:38 am
Buoyed by a big debate win, Carly Fiorina’s rise in the polls has brought with it renewed scrutiny of her record as a CEO and Senate candidate in California.
After besting her rivals in the first “undercard” debate, Fiorina won a slot on CNN’s main stage event, where, again, she established a commanding presence. On and off social media, Fiorina was declared the victor — despite touching off a controversy over the accuracy of her characterization of recently released video stings on Planned Parenthood. In a survey analysis, NBC News noted, “Fiorina emerges the clear winner, with a positive 34, whereas Trump nets a positive 2 among Republican voters who watched or followed the debate coverage.” USA Today’s expert panel has placed Fiorina atop their “power rankings” list for a third straight week.
But Fiorina detractors have long heaped criticism on both her tenure at HP and her campaign against Sen. Barbara Boxer, leaving some in the Golden State’s GOP warning of a bumpy road to the nomination. Although her edge against the likes of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton could be significant, Joel Fox of Fox & Hounds told the San Francisco Chronicle, “as the campaign moves ahead, some of the negatives that Californians knew about will move to the fore. And that’s the material that a lot of the national folks haven’t heard yet.”
Seizing the political opportunity, Boxer herself didn’t hesitate to weigh in on Fiorina’s record. “She’s very good with words,” the Senator told MSNBC, but suggested that “when people see her deeds and see her mean-spiritedness, she won’t be on the top anymore. […] I think the Republicans would have a very rough time if she was on the ticket.” Boxer went further in remarks for the Los Angeles Times, calling Fiorina “the face of income inequality and the face of corporate greed,” making “Mitt Romney look like a Democrat.” Fiorina’s track record as CEO, the Times noted, became a focal point of Democrats’ attacks during her bid for the Senate. Boxer managed to blunt Fiorina’s strengthening challenge with an ad focused intently on discrediting her time at HP, as the Washington Post observed.
In the current political climate, however, that tenure has not factored as heavily into Republicans’ assessments at a national level. It cropped up just once at the most recent debate. “Jake Tapper noted that Donald Trump had said Fiorina ‘ran HP into the ground’ during her time as CEO,” as the Post recounted. “Fiorina responded, ‘I led Hewlett Packard through a very difficult time, the worst technology recession in 25 years,’ adding: ‘We had to make tough choices, and in doing so, we saved 80,000 jobs, went on to grow to 160,000 jobs.'” The moderators and the candidates moved on.
Nevertheless, Fiorina was set to face continued criticism on the West Coast. California Democrats have proven eager to use their in-state rivals to attack the national GOP — and vice versa — with gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom training fire on Trump in order to cast aspersions at Republicans in his state.
Among GOP voters, Trump remains at the top of the heap in statewide polls, with Fiorina still trailing. Fiorina placed fifth in a recent USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll conducted before the impact of her debate victory. California Republicans’ strong preference for fresh political blood, however, indicated room for her to grow that more established candidates have fruitlessly pursued.
“Bush, Cruz and the other conventional politicians in the GOP race are all falling to the strong outsider tide: 47 percent of voters in the poll sided with three candidates who have not held elective office: Trump, Carson and Carly Fiorina,” as the Times summarized respondents’ preferences. “Leaving aside the one-fifth of respondents who were undecided, well over half of those who had a favorite candidate chose a person who had never served in office.”
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