Joining Dr. Ben Carson’s entrance into the GOP nomination pool, former Hewlett-Packard CEO, Carly Fiorina, announced her presidential campaign. Fiorina leads the pack of Republican hopefuls in her incisive critiques of Democrat frontrunner, Hillary Clinton.
“We must understand our role in the world – which is to lead – and the nature of our allies and especially, our adversaries. Like Hillary Clinton, I too have travelled hundreds of thousands of miles around the globe. But unlike her, I have actually accomplished something…Mrs. Clinton, flying is an activity not an accomplishment.”
This, her most memorable line so far, provides a glimpse into her vision of American leadership in foreign affairs, but also her feistiness. In this statement, Fiorina asks the most important question Mrs. Clinton must answer: In the many years you have spent in public service, what have you done for this country that you take pride in?
Turning this question around on her, many of her detractors, including some on the right, note that Fiorina has never worked in government. She ran for Senate in California in 2010 and lost–giving Republicans desperate for a presidential win reason for reconsideration. Fiorina, though, answers that her tenure at Hewlett-Packard makes her uniquely qualified, at least among the rest of the GOP field, to be president. This assertion speaks to an issue in presidential politics in which the voters do not know what careers best prepare their employees to be president of the United States. Furthermore, her tenure at Hewlett-Packard is not without its share of detractors.
“Fiorina’s short time at Hewlett-Packard is all we need to know — laying off 30,000 employees, while being rewarded with a multimillion dollar bonus,” Democratic National Committee Press Secretary Holly Shulman said in a statement. “If this is how Fiorina ran her business, just imagine what she would do to the country.”
Of course, most conservatives understand exactly what difficulties face business executives who run for office. “The fact is, business people have to make tough decisions,” Mart Wilson, Fiorina’s 2010 Senate campaign manager said to CNN. “In the end,” says Sarah Isgur Flores, Fiorina’s deputy campaign manager, “the company succeeded and grew [through the Great Recession] because of her tough choices.”
The problem Fiorina faces in defending her record is that for Republicans to win in 2016, a case must be made to independent voters–voters who do not understand and grant the same deference to business leaders as conservatives do. Fiorina’s populist message, painting her failed Senate campaign as a plus that allows her to benefit from her status as a “Washington Outsider,” will be damaged or bolstered by the way she answers criticisms about her tenure as Hewlett-Packard’s CEO.
At this point, though, Fiorina’s participation in the GOP presidential field goes a long way to helping the party showcase its diversity. Showcasing the Party’s bright, successful, fiery women can erode the stereotypes liberals paint of a paternalistic Republican Party insensitive to women’s issues. Fiorina can sting Hillary Clinton in ways that none of the Republican men can without seeming like bullies. Even if Fiorina does not win the nomination, she could still serve as a strong Vice Presidential pick, or as a positive voice for the 2016 campaign.