Fiorina sees a surge in GOP race for president


Korrie Bysted/Iowa State Daily

Carly Fiorina spoke at the Great Hall of the Memorial Union on Friday, August 28th.

Carson Dugger

As the crowded Republican primary for president rolls on towards February’s Iowa Caucus, Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett Packard tech executive, has found herself moving up in the polls following a surge in popularity.

Fiorina, who was CEO at technology giant Hewlett-Packard (HP) from 1999 until 2005, entered the race in early May with as much media attention as other candidates, but also faced the problem of little name recognition.

Her tenure at HP was marked with controversy following a merger with Compaq Computer Corporation, leading to thousands of workers being laid off. Responding to attacks from opponents in both parties, she often says, “I led Hewlett-Packard through a very difficult time: the worst technology recession in 25 years.”

Even though she has been criticized about the decisions she made while at HP, she seems confident that it gave her great experience in tough decision-making and leadership.

“We must lead in this nation again, and some tough calls are going to be required, but as for the firing, I have been very honest about this from the day it happened,” Fiorina said during last weeks debate. “When you challenge the status quo, you make enemies. I made a few. Steve Jobs told me that when he called me the day I was fired to say, ‘Hey, been there, done that … twice.’”

As it is with any political outsider, Fiorina experienced some issues early in her campaign.

“Fiorina was one of the last to hum into the contest and her biggest problem was her lack of name recognition,” said Steffen Schmidt, an Iowa State professor of political science. Fiorina came into the GOP race for president as a widely unknown businesswoman with one failed run for U.S. Senate in California.

Fiorina’s real rise to being a serious contender came with her breakout performance at the FOX News debate on Aug. 7, where she took part in the undercard debate several hours before the primetime debate. Because of her strong showing, she “graduated” from the undercard debate for lesser candidates, gaining enough of a following in polls to stand in the next primetime debate hosted by CNN.

At the CNN debate last week, Fiorina stood with 10 other GOP candidates, but stood out as the only woman on stage. Her star moments in the debate came with her strong stance on Planned Parenthood funding and a response to fellow candidate Donald Trump’s comments about her face.

In a CNN/ORC poll released on Sunday, 52 percent of those surveyed said Fiorina did the “best job” at the debate, regardless of whom they are supporting.

“[Carly] says things in a matter that kind of gets people jacked up,” said state Rep. Josh Byrnes, R-Osage, who is supporting Fiorina in the caucus.

Even though her performance in the debate was widely praised by pundits, a local supporter said she could do even better in the future.

“What people saw [in the debate] is certainly half of what she’s capable of,” said Brandon Lee, a farmer from Story City.

Fiorina has been compared with current GOP nomination frontrunner Donald Trump, because both have no political experience, but have acted as CEO of national companies. Along with Trump and Fiorina, retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson – all three-outsider candidates – have been dominating polls over the past few weeks.

The CNN poll from Sunday, showed Trump still leading at 24 percent, but down 8 percent over the last poll. Fiorina has seen the biggest increase, up 12 percent in the past two weeks to 15 percent support. Carson is third with 14 percent.

One key difference between the two candidates is their use of language, said Frank Seydel, an Ames resident that is a retired biochemistry professional and pastor.

“She’s perfectly willing to make controversial statements, but she doesn’t make rash statements,” Seydel said.

Because of her recent rise to fame, Fiorina will have to keep up her momentum and be prepared to answer some tough questions, Schmidt said.

“She needs to have good answers when attacked, because now, everyone will be diving into her life,” Schmidt said. “Every aspect.”