Wait, is Carly Fiorina about to primary Trump?

Wait, is Carly Fiorina about to primary Trump?

The tweets below feel like more than just an idle mini-rant inspired by the pitiful decision of some state GOPs to cancel their primaries next year. They read like the preamble to a statement about why she has no choice but to challenge Trump for the Republican nomination. Money quote: “It is not a citizen’s job to ‘be loyal’; it is the official’s job to earn our loyalty. And when they cannot, we vote them out of office.”

If she’s getting in, though, it’d be completely out of the blue. I don’t recall seeing a single Fiorina rumor in political media this year.

Am I wrong to read her tweets as a primary hint? Maybe I just have Sanford on the brain.

Actually, as I read it again, that sounds more like the introduction to a third-party run than a primary challenge. “We have no obligation to follow party orthodoxy, whatever it is” plays like a declaration of independence from the GOP, whom she’s accusing of corruption by canceling next year’s elections.

One thing that struck me yesterday about Sanford’s candidacy is how it complements Joe Walsh’s, two components in a broader argument against Trump. Sanford’s covering the policy part of the argument, aiming at Trump over ballooning deficits. Walsh is focusing on the character part, highlighting ways in which Trump is temperamentally unfit. An obvious missing piece in the argument, though, is women: POTUS polls remarkably, even dangerously, poorly among them, he’s facing #MeToo claims of various stripes, and yet the three candidates who’ve jumped in to oppose him in the primaries are all men.

Maybe Fiorina sees an opening as a female voice speaking out against Trump, especially as a third-party candidate:

Those are some mind-boggling gender gaps among white voters. White male college grads are net -5 on Trump while white female college grads are … -33. Among Trump’s core base of whites without a college degree, he’s +45 with men and -6 among women. No joke — a 51-point gap. Nor is this the only poll this summer showing abysmal numbers for him among women. Back in June, The Hill found that 62 percent of women said they were unlikely to vote for POTUS in 2020.

Maybe Fiorina’s reading that data and thinking there’s room for a pro-business center-right woman critic of Trump as an independent candidate next year. Trump’s campaign is desperate to improve his standing with suburban women, the same group that killed the GOP in House elections last fall and nearly handed a Senate seat in Texas to Beto O’Rourke. That’s exactly whom Fiorina would pitch herself to — better-educated white women, just like herself, who find Trump personally obnoxious but also don’t want to end up as piggy banks for President Warren’s social engineering program. Whether Fiorina would pull more votes from Trump or from his opponent if she ran third-party is unclear, but she’s been eager to make a splash in politics for years with little success. A campaign aimed at suburban women would make her a factor in 2020, particularly if she lines up some real money. Trump would need to be careful in how he attacks her too; no doubt some of his choicer lines about women generally and Fiorina in particular will be featured in her attacks against him.

Even if she’s only a three-percent candidate backed by centrists who loathe both nominees, that’s an important three percent.

Exit question: Am I reading too much into her tweets? She has nothing to lose by running as an independent (certainly there’s no future for a Fiorina-type candidate in the post-Trump GOP), she can potentially have an impact, and she’d fill an interesting niche as the only prominent woman candidate if Democrats end up nominating Biden or Bernie. Why not?

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David Strom 7:01 PM on June 06, 2023