Why Carly Fiorina's Campaign Is An Empty Attack On Hillary Clinton
There are lots of ways to make yourself stand out in a presidential election. Candidates produce thought-provoking campaign ads, address issues that resonate with millions of Americans and appear on morning television shows.
Carly Fiorina, meanwhile, has chosen to distinguish herself by running a campaign built on criticism and negativity.
It's hard to imagine that this kind of campaign would be a good idea for any candidate. In Carly's case, it's particularly detrimental.
Fiorina has very little political experience; her bid for Senate in 2010 was unsuccessful and in February of 2015, only 1 percent of GOP primary voters in New Hampshire said they would vote for her.
She has no strong base of prior support, so she must build from the bottom up. Negativity is not the way to do so.
Instead of fueling her campaign on a mixture of positive messaging and dialogue about major economic, social and political issues, she has founded her candidacy on jabs at the only other female candidate in the election.
She has also done little, at least so far, to provide any indication as to why she should be trusted to lead our country.
After spearheading the unsuccessful merger of Hewlett-Packard and Compaq as HP CEO, Fiorina was ousted from the company in 2005.
She implies she was the victim of sexism at HP, telling The Hill, "Men understand other men's need for respect but they don't always understand women's need for respect."
This accusation came even though another woman, Meg Whitman, was brought in to replace her, and her colleagues see her removal as a result of her poor performance.
Women Not Supporting Women
Despite her accusation of sexism at HP, and her idea that only other women understand a woman's "need for respect," Fiorina was in no rush to tear down the only other female running in the 2016 presidential election. Hillary may be her rival, but Fiorina came out of the gate with attacks.
Just as she announced her run on Good Morning America, she also accused Hillary of being untrustworthy about "a whole set of things," having "peddled a fiction about [Benghazi, Libya] for a month," and failed to be "transparent about her server and her emails."
Regardless, Fiorina hasn't said much about policy; right now, she appears more focused on taking on her rival.
Fiorina's campaign announcement has mostly been discussed for its nod to Hillary's own campaign announcement video.
In her video, Carly is shown watching Hillary's ad, then turning away from it to say, "Our founders never intended for us to have a professional political class." The very first words in her own campaign video are Hillary's.
Fiorina's focus on Hillary is even more surprising in light of her Unlocking Potential Project, which is her engine for bringing more women voters to the Republican Party.
But if there's any truth to the idea that women prefer to support one another in leadership roles in male-dominated fields, Fiorina's smear strategy could backfire when it comes to securing more female voters.
One also has to wonder why she's so focused on Hillary, when the first rivals she faces will be in her own party.
Fiorina On the Issues
Fiorina has also framed her stance on political issues in light of what others have not done, rather than what she will do.
She blamed liberal environmentalists for California's drought, rather than coming up with viable solutions to the problem.
She also discussed Islamic extremism in light of the Obama administration's failure to emphasize its threat, rather than discussing ways to better combat extremist violence.
On the issue of immigration and building a border wall to keep illegal immigrants out, she also directs criticism at President Obama. Instead of answering a question about why the US can afford to build said wall, she simply states, "You should ask President Obama."
Her stance on healthcare has focused on repealing Obama's healthcare law. Aside from this, she has said little, other than her desire to make the insurance market more competitive.
Whether voters agree with her criticism of Obama is irrelevant. What matters, or at least should matter, is what she will do differently.
As for where she lands on an array of other issues, it's possible to glean information only from statements she made during her Senate race, which was a decidedly less negative campaign.
While she has not said much about the ethnic academic achievement gap, she has demonstrated support for No Child Left Behind.
She has also made her anti-abortion stance clear, advocating to ban most abortions after 20 weeks and overturn Roe v. Wade.
Additionally, Fiorina is well known for her support of government benefits for same-sex couples. Despite this, she still does not support gay marriage.
This election season, Fiorina has only been specific on some issues. In New Hampshire, she was willing to talk details on foreign policy, to allay concern about her lack of foreign policy experience.
She made it clear she believes the Kurds should be armed, and it's important to be firm with Iran.
She also wrote on Facebook about the importance of implementing a simplified tax code and zero-based budgeting. It's likely we'll hear more concrete details from her in weeks to come.
Unfortunately, Fiorina has not kicked off her campaign in the way that best represents who she could be.
Her tenure at HP, and the damage control she must do for it hasn't helped matters. But she could have spun her time there into a story about a woman taking on a powerful leadership role in which she made mistakes and learned how important it is to work cooperatively and cohesively.
She could have leveraged her campaign on the idea that she is a more modern conservative -- a female Republican who wants to stand up for women while representing a political party that female voters are less inclined to support.
She could have played more off her "political glass ceiling" angle, emphasizing that she is an outsider with a fresh perspective and fewer years of political game-playing behind her.
Instead, she's focused more on what she isn't, telling us she's not Hillary, disagrees with Obama, and she was unjustly fired from HP.
It's hard to support a candidate constructing her image around negative space and even harder to support a female candidate who seems all too eager to take down another woman.
Citations: 2016 New HampshiretPresidential General and Primary Election Topline (Business Week), Fiorina defends rocky tenure as HP CEO (The Hill), The Carly Fiorina Leadership File (Bloomberg), Why Carlys big bet is failing Fortune Classics 2005 (Fortune), Carly Fiorina Announces Presidential Campaign With a Jab at Hillary Clinton She Clearly Is Not Trustworthy (ABC News), Hillary Clinton emails Did she do anything wrong or not (CNN), What Carly Fiorina Would Need to Do to Win (The New York Times), Strategy (UP Project), Carly Fiorina The Man Made Water Shortage in California (Time), Carly Fiorina on the Issues (The New York Times), Meet the Press Transcript November 16 2014 (NBC News), What does Carly Fiorina believe Where the candidate stands on 10 issues (PBS), Right Fight (The New Yorker), In New Hampshire Fiorina Outlines Foreign Policy Specifics (ABC News), Carly Fiorina (Facebook), Carly Unplugged Fiorina takes aim at liberal elitism politics glass ceiling (The Washington Times), Women More Likely to Be Democrats Regardless of Age (Gallup)