The bias against Fiorina
© Getty Images

Women of all political stripes have been saying for years that if Hillary Clinton ran for president again, they'd vote for her just to see the first female president in history. While it didn't quite work out that way for Clinton in 2008, it's a moot point this go-round.

Here comes Carly.

Yes, Carly Fiorina, former Hewlitt-Packard CEO and failed 2010 California Senate candidate, faces an almost insurmountable challenge in her bid to take the Republican nominee. But the media, with their inherent bias against contenders who have never held an elected office, won't help.


And neither will the naysayers who believe that there's no way a woman can win the Republican nomination. That double-barreled prejudice is the reason why Fiorina, despite her talents, is going to have to come out swinging. And not just by jabbing Clinton at every chance she gets.

But it still stands that her womanhood will be seen as a hindrance in a party that is known for its good ol' boy network. There are many progressive Republicans who will deny the charge and point to how far women have come. But it's a lot like saying that women have come a long way in the the Roman Catholic Church. I guess it's true, if you see it as a victory, that after 2,000 years young girls can be altar servers, but there are no female priests.

Obviously, Fiorina stands out in the party's electable field. She's the only one running wearing a dress. When she announces her candidacy on Monday, more than a dozen male pols will already litter the 2016 Republican landscape, including heavyweights like Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioVoters elected a record number of Black women to Congress this year — none were Republican Biden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls The Memo: GOP mulls its future after Trump MORE (Fla.), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulCongress set for chaotic year-end sprint McConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge Biden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls MORE (Ky.) and Ted Cruz (Texas). The candidates in this campaign have enough testosterone to lift an 18-wheeler over their heads. That doesn't even include Dr. Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonVoters elected a record number of Black women to Congress this year — none were Republican Ben Carson says he's 'out of the woods' after being 'extremely sick' with COVID-19 Ben Carson says he used unproven COVID-19 treatment recommended by MyPillow CEO MORE and former Gov. Mike Huckabee (Ark.), who will announce next week.

When it comes to the campaign trail, her femininity will guarantee only a few things. She'll be asked to talk about being a woman running for the presidency and she'll get a spot at a lectern in front of the cameras during debates. The networks and the party are going to have to pare down the number of candidates on the stage. Given the double-digit number of men, no way will the only woman in the line-up be left out of the televised spectacle.

And her lack of political experience works against her in a big way. Few major nominees have gone before Fiorina who have never served in office. There's Army Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose first elected job was president. Okay, it helped that he almost single-handedly won World War II. Same was true for Army Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who became president after the Civil War ended. And, well, there's Chester A. Arthur. He never held office before becoming vice president and then president in 1881.

While she's no Eisenhower, Fiorina is impressive in her own right, even if she hasn't been elected. There are those who say she should earn her right to run "the old-fashioned way" by wading through election after election like Gov. Susana Martinez (R-N.M.) and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.). But this is a results-oriented woman, the first to lead a Fortune 500 company, who by her own admission got caught in a boardroom brawl and lost. She has grit.

And she isn't the only woman running who knows foreign leaders. She points to having spent time with Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Her business background brings a fresh "outsider" approach to politics.

So how does she shine in the face of such depressing odds? She continues to do what we've seen so far. Be relatable. Keep herself on message. Focus on leadership abilities. At some point, many in the race who are not adept politicians are going to self-immolate by making rookie mistakes. If she holds steady, there is a small chance she may make it to last man standing. A very small one. And, by then, it won't be because she is or isn't a woman.

Ashburn is an award-winning Washington-based reporter and TV analyst covering media and politics.