Carly Fiorina on Wednesday hurled insults at Hillary Clinton, just out of the Democratic front-runner’s earshot.

Fiorina, who is trying to claw her way to the top 10 contenders for the GOP presidential nomination in order to secure a spot at the first Republican presidential debate stage, held a news conference outside Clinton’s event at a hotel here in humid South Carolina, where Fiorina also had a full schedule…

“How can we trust Mrs. Clinton?” asked Fiorina, who in recent months has used her status as the only woman in the Republican field to attack the Democratic candidate.

“We now know that her family foundation has had to refile five years’ worth of returns because it failed to disclose donations from foreign governments. We know that she only had one email in her server, that she put a server in her basement, that it was convenient not to rely on federal government emails. We know that Benghazi was a terrorist attack despite the fact that she told us it was a protest gone bad,” added Fiorina during the 11-minute news conference.

Thursday morning Quinnipiac University released a national poll showing that Fiorina has, in fact, broken into the top 10 list of GOP presidential candidates. Only the top 10 candidates will be allowed to take the stage at the first debate in August.

Fiorina is tied for 10th in the poll with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, both with 2 percent of the vote. But it’s the first time that Fiorina has made the cut…

So at least we know Fiorina’s media blitz is working, however slightly. It’s still early.

Two weeks ago, the 2016 presidential candidate was in Iowa to speak at the state GOP’s Lincoln Dinner. She wasn’t the only 2016 candidate who spoke, but she was the only one for whom, when her mic was cut off after her 10 minutes of allotted speaking time were up, the crowd was noticeably upset.

“She was like a fireball,” dinner guest Tanya Manatt, told the Des Moines Register. “She had a lot of energy, and she’s not intimidated.”…

So what gives? Everywhere Fiorina goes, she’s the crowd favorite. She’s proving every day that she can and will take on presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and she’s taking every opportunity she can to spread her message of limited government and personal responsibility (and we’re so far not sick of that!). Yet somehow, that attention isn’t moving the polls.

The answer, according to Fiorina’s spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores, is that people just aren’t tuned in to 2016 yet. And with the first Republican debate just a couple months away, Fiorina’s plan, according to Flores, is to “continue to meet voters, speak at events, and answer questions about why Carly is the best leader for the White House.”

Carly Fiorina took the stage and blasted Big Government for suppressing the nation’s economic potential. She name-dropped Vladimir Putin and other world leaders she’s met, underlining her global experience and outlining a hawkish approach to foreign affairs. And she drew laughs and applause when she playfully addressed her status as the only woman in the GOP field. “Can anyone think for a single instant that a man’s judgment was clouded by his hormones, including in the Oval Office?”

Just as the cheers were rising from the ballroom, her mic cut out because her 10 minutes were up. But it worked out perfectly for Fiorina: It ended up leaving the crowd wanting more…

Even inside Walker’s hospitality suite, volunteers decked out in red aprons emblazoned with his PAC’s logo talked among themselves about how good Fiorina was; a number of people interviewed after her speech listed her among their top three candidates. Despite whispers that she’s positioning for a vice presidential slot, a cable news gig or to sell copies of her new book, the weekend buzz was that she may have more of an impact on the race than many expected.

“It was the most exciting speech all night,” said Cait Suttie, 27, who waited to meet Ms. Fiorina and now wants to volunteer with her campaign.

Iowa voters are known to fall in love with firebrand candidates and underfunded outsiders, from Pat Buchanan in 1996 to Howard Dean in 2004. And this cycle, Republicans here are starting to swoon over Ms. Fiorina, who is so unknown in national polls that she may not even be included in the first presidential debate in August…

Whether Ms. Fiorina, the only woman in the Republican race, can build from her status as a crowd-pleasing speaker and curiosity into a serious competitor is not clear. But something is happening on the ground here…

“She walked on the stage, and they said, ‘Who is she?’ “ said Steve DeMaura, the executive director of Carly for America, a “super PAC” that supports her candidacy. “And then she walked off the stage, and they said: ‘She’s impressive. I want to see her six more times.’“

Fiorina’s ability to inspire such admiration speaks to her potential as a foil to Hillary Clinton. After losing badly in her only previous bid for public office, Fiorina has emerged as a master of one of the oldest political arts: the stump speech. She’s also developed a knack for turning even provocative reporters’ questions to her advantage. She will lean heavily on those newfound skills while campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, the two early states that tend to determine if a would-be contender surges into the top tier or falls by the wayside…

It’s tempting to dismiss Fiorina given that no candidate in modern political history has won the presidency without previously holding public office, but opponents do so at their own peril.

“The big thing people forget is that she’s worth tens of millions of dollars,” says one unaligned GOP operative with presidential campaign experience. “She’s the only candidate in the race who can both catch fire online and raise millions, as well as self-fund any time she wants without breaking a sweat. She spent $5 million in a doomed California Senate race. She could spend a fraction of that and be the new big dog coming out of Iowa.”

Her ability to stay on message without repeating the same worn talking point four times is nothing short of remarkable. She told National Review Online that she learned how to hone a message when a professor at Stanford assigned a book of medieval philosophy every week and required students to condense it into a two-page paper.

Politics is a field dominated by those who excel at communicating, and Fiorina is proving herself a powerful and effective communicator. She does more than turn a nice phrase. (“Nothing makes me angrier than when people’s livelihoods are sacrificed on the altar of ideology.”) She packs more substance into fewer words than anyone else in the 2016 field.

With this ability, Fiorina is selling herself as a competent manager and bold leader…

Business executives who run for office tend to reveal quickly the gap between the skills needed to succeed in business and the skills needed to succeed in politics. Fiorina does not. She has learned from her mistakes as a surrogate for John McCain in 2008 and a candidate for U.S. Senate in 2010. Put her on a political debate stage, and she will shine.

Perception matters — a lot — in politics. And at the moment, Republicans’ image as a party considered less-than-friendly to women is a major problem. After losing the female vote by just three points in 2004, Republicans lost among women by 13 in 2008 and 11 in 2012.  Compounding that problem is the fact that women have made up a solid majority of the overall electorate in each of those three elections — 54 percent in 2004 and 53 percent in both 2008 and 2012.

With that as a backdrop, you can understand why the (likely) exclusion of former HP executive Carly Fiorina — the aforementioned one woman running for the Republican nod — from the first presidential debate in August is so concerning for many Republican types…

No, I don’t think that Fiorina on the debate stage in Ohio in August would solve the gender gap that Republican presidential nominees have grappled with over the past few cycles. By any measure, she’s a long-shot candidate. But debates this early in an election are really symbolic endeavors — showcasing the sort of face(s) the party is putting forward.  And 10 male faces — seven of which are white — on a debate stage as the first impression many voters have of the “new” GOP isn’t ideal.

On Fox’s The Five, Juan Williams said Fiorina deserves a spot on the debate stage, especially because she’s the only woman. Dana Perino was a little taken aback by that, but Kimberly Guilfoyle really got worked up.

After Williams argued it’s a good thing to have Fiorina and Ben Carson to be on the debate stage to show a more diverse GOP, Guilfoyle retorted, “This is not affirmative action. This is the President of the United States of America!”

She got more pissed off as she argued that Fiorina herself would want to earn a place on the debate stage on the merits and not because “they said let’s check off the gender box.”

Carly Fiorina is most certainly a serious presidential candidate.

Still, even as her public profile has risen — she has enjoyed by my observation more favorable national press coverage than Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin — and even as she’s connected with Republican audiences at cattle calls, her support has hovered in Celiac disease range, with just about one percent of the GOP electorate supporting her candidacy…

She has a month and a half to get unstuck. But here’s her dilemma: When she sticks to Clinton criticism, she attracts the press and attention. For her to break out of the pack, she needs to distinguish herself from the men she’s running against, and that means she’ll need to set aside the Clinton stuff and start to focus on what makes her different

But if Wednesday is any indication, Fiorina might have decided to double down by being even more aggressive with Clinton.