Why the GOP needs Carly Fiorina
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Carly Fiorina can still beat the odds and shatter the glass ceiling of the Aug. 6 Republican primary debate.

No big surprise. As a woman who started as an administrative assistant and 20 years later became the first female CEO of a Fortune 100 company and a breast cancer survivor, beating odds and shattering glass ceilings is all she does.


A PPP poll last week showed Fiorina up to 4 percent. That may not sound noteworthy, but for a candidate with shallow campaign pockets and limited press coverage, it is quite a coup. The poll shows her tied with Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOvernight Defense: Lawmakers release compromise defense bill in defiance of Trump veto threat | Senate voting next week on blocking UAE arms sale | Report faults lack of training, 'chronic fatigue' in military plane crashes Senate to vote next week on blocking Trump's UAE arms sale McConnell in tough position as House eyes earmark return MORE (Ky.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate committee approves nominations of three FEC commissioners Cruz urges Supreme Court to take up Pennsylvania election challenge OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration proceeds with rollback of bird protections despite objections | Trump banking proposal on fossil fuels sparks backlash from libertarians | EU 2019 greenhouse gas emissions down 24 percent MORE (Texas), who are very big names in GOP nomination race. That's made more impressive by the fact that Paul has spent about four times as much as her, while Cruz has spent about eight times as much. In fact, Fiorina caught up with the two higher tier candidates while spending under $1 million. Not bad.

Many Republicans have latched onto Donald Trump as the candidate who isn't a politician, who tells it like it is, who knows a thing or two about business.

Fiorina is all that, but with an extra helping of class.

As you start to hear her name more often, it will undoubtedly be followed by the echo of Democratic attacks on her tenure as CEO of Hewlett-Packard. These attacks attempt to paint a picture of her HP tenure as some disaster of Fredo-Corleone-runs-the-family-business proportions. They contain fraction-truths and oversimplifications.

The truth is that CEO legacies, like presidential legacies, are complicated and require nuanced analysis.

The attacks focus most specifically on an allegedly disastrous merger with Compaq. But even though it may have been seen that way by many business analysts at the time, Mike Zapler, currently an editor at Politico, wrote in 2010:

Fiorina's reign at the helm of the iconic Silicon Valley firm has been vindicated by time. Her signature move while at HP — a $25 billion megamerger with Compaq that was panned by many observers at the time — has turned out to be a boon for the company, several experts now acknowledge. That acquisition and others undertaken by Fiorina's successor, Mark Hurd, have made Palo Alto-based HP the largest technology company in the world.

But as Carly's name-recognition grows, so too does the liberal myth of her incompetence.

Color me unsurprised. Political attacks always seem to use twice as much firepower as usual when they're launched at female or minority Republicans — not out of racism or sexism, but because each time a female or minority Republican voice emerges, it becomes more difficult to characterize the GOP as the racist, war-on-women party.

I hope Fiorina's candidacy survives the attacks and she finds herself on the debate stage, because her voice is just the kind that can breathe new life into the cleft in twain (then cleft again) Republican Party.

Making the GOP debate field would provide Fiorina with an excellent opportunity to shine. One of her most impressive gifts is her ability to answer questions exactly as they are asked. Most politicians can't; they are forced to rely on a little lockbox in their brains filled with stock responses crafted by professional speechwriters. When they are asked a question, they rifle through it to match the best-fitting stock answer to the question.

Fiorina doesn't need to do that — she is the speechwriter. I read on Jane Genova's blog that Fiorina writes her own speeches, and I thought, "no way." I scoured the Internet for confirmation, but didn't find anything that really made me believe it. So I asked Fiorina's press secretary, Anna Epstein, if it was true. Her answer? "Yes, she writes it all."

As a result, her answers are direct and nuanced instead of being prepackaged spin.

This week, Fiorina is back down in the new CNN poll and, as of now, her odds of making the stage for the first debate are long. But beating long odds seems to be every chapter in Fiorina's story.

Zipperer is assistant professor of political science at Georgia Military College. Follow him on Twitter @eddiezipperer.