Carly Fiorina’s campaign to win the 2016 presidency is getting a lot of media attention. Plus, she has shown that she can pack in the crowds. Supporters love the way she attacks Hillary Clinton’s campaign. She is consistently demanding that the Democratic front-runner be “truthful”, operate with “transparency” and demonstrate a “track record”. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO has also made herself extremely accessible to the media, answering 400+ questions to Hillary’s eight. The polls, however, don’t reflect the momentum which she is currently enjoying on the campaign circuit. According to the Quinnipiac University poll released on May 28, Fiorina is polling at just 2%, a statistic which ties her with former Ohio Governor John Kasich, who has not yet announced a 2016 bid for the White House. On the other hand, Fiorina at 2% still makes the “top ten candidates” cut for participating in the televised candidate debates. But is landing a spot in the debates enough? Will her popularity with the public and the press move the needle for her campaign?
Carly Fiorina is an interesting presidential candidate for a number of reasons. She is an executive, not a politician. And of course to state the obvious, she is a woman. While she may say that she is not playing the gender card, the media has forced her into playing that hand. After all, this is the first time in history that we have two female presidential candidates. Fiorina has realized that the media is going to pit them against each other in a protracted cat fight. So she has elected to accept the situation, positioning herself as the Hillary alternative, a woman of substance with a track record of accomplishments. She is also not shy about aggressively courting the media. Most recently, she stood on the side walk in Columbia, South Carolina and answered questions for the reporters who were waiting desperately to get a few soundbites from Hillary Clinton.
Some political analysts say that Fiorina’s focus on lambasting Clinton may garner press coverage, but it won’t necessarily translate into votes or financial support. Perhaps she should be focusing more on differentiating herself from the other GOP candidates. She also needs to address her own perceived shortcomings. The press, opposing candidates and the voters, will continue to attack her record as the CEO of HP. After all, she was dismissed by HP for failing to achieve the organization’s strategic and financial objectives. She was also not particularly popular with the employees due to the record number of layoffs which took place during her tenure. She also eliminated the organization’s profit sharing plan. Yale Management Scholar Jeffrey Sonnenfeld described her as the “worst CEO” for “destroying the wealth of her investors yet still earning close to $100 million”. The day she left with her $20 million golden parachute, HP’s stock jumped, adding almost $3 billion to the company’s value in a day. Others such as former Intel Chairman Craig Barrett gave her leadership at HP a better grade. Of course, she will also come under scrutiny for her failed 2010 senate campaign. In addition, she has had her own non-profit organization woes. She failed to register the Carly Fiorina Foundation with the IRS as a non-profit. She also failed to register Carly Fiorina Enterprises as a corporation.
Carly Fiorina, like every candidate, has her liabilities, but she also brings a fresh energy and enthusiasm to the 2016 presidential race. She has clearly captured the attention of both the press and the American public. She just needs to find a way to convert the cheering crowds into voters. Her campaign has to be about more than “readytobeathillary.com”.
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