The sight of a woman like Carly Fiorina — like that of an African-American like Dr. Ben Carson — vying for the Republican nomination for president is enough to make all our pulses beat faster. It is, after all, only by breaking the Democrats’ condominium over blacks, Latinos, single women, gays, and young voters that Republicans can at avoid ultimate extinction.
While Carson disappointed with his questioning of the use of force in Afghanistan after 9-11, Carly soared during the debate. As it turned out, none other than Trump fed her the best straight line when he questioned her appearance and then tried to spin his remarks. Her flat out statement that all women heard what he had said and should make their own judgment was an ace that could not be returned.
Carly Fiorina is a skilled advocate for the private sector, for limited government, against crazy regulations and for lower taxes. She is a Republican dream. In the debate, she showed how conversant she is with defense matters and her ability to summon passion and commitment in her answers triggered widespread admiration.
She has several key vulnerabilities that we have to take seriously. The worst is the way Democrats can successfully twist her business record to her own disadvantage. Haven’t we just lived through the Romney catastrophe? Didn’t we all hear Republican primary rivals like Newt Gingrich decrying Mitt’s record at Bain Capital only to nominate him anyway and then watch Obama tear him to pieces using the same arguments? What is acceptable in business makes for a very bad record in politics.
Our thanks to Chris Cillizza, who writes “The Fix” blog for the Washington Post, for reminding us of just how vulnerable Carly’s Hewlett Packard record left her. He reminds us that she was closing in on California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer in their epic 2010 contest. A few weeks before Election Day, they were locked in a statistical tie. Then Boxer threw the HP punch.
Her ad noted that Fiorina had laid off 30,000 workers at HP. It played a film clip of Carly saying: “when you’re talking about massive layoffs — which we did — perhaps the work needs to be done somewhere else?” Then the announcer says “Fiorina shipped jobs to China and while Californians lost their jobs, Carly Fiorina tripled her salary, bought a million dollar yacht and five corporate jets.” The lethal ad ends by playing a clip of Carly saying “I’m proud of my record at Hewlett Packard.”
This is just the kind of ad we don’t want to see in October, likely this time replete with testimonials from workers who have lost their jobs.
In California, the damage to Fiorina was mortal. She fell apart the moment the ad started to run and lost by ten points.
With the current animus for high priced corporate executives who make millions while laying off workers and outsourcing jobs, there is no reason to make our hopes for the White House hinge on the ability of one such CEO to justify her actions. To Republicans, it doesn’t matter. We get it that you often have to lay off workers and outsource to protect the remaining jobs still in the U.S. But if Romney taught us anything it is that voters don’t get it.
Let’s not make the same mistake twice.
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