The personal war between Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina has become a central subplot to tonight’s CNN debate. Will Fiorina go after Trump, a strategy that hasn’t exactly worked out well for other Republican candidates, or will she use his attacks as a means to promote herself, as Fiorina did so impressively with her “Faces” ad? Will Trump attack Fiorina again, or will he concentrate fire on Jeb Bush — or the moderators? Fiorina told CNBC’s John Harwood that Trump will hear plenty from her tonight, but it will be comparison of business records … and practices:
Carly Fiorina says she is not going to be shy about taking on Donald Trump in Wednesday night’s CNN debate.
“Mr. Trump’s going to be hearing quite a lot from me,” she told CNBC’s John Harwood in a pre-debate interview. …
“Donald Trump and I are in totally different businesses,” she said. “He’s in the entertainment business. And he’s also in a privately held business.
“In the business I was in, we had to report our results publicly, as you well know, in excruciating detail, quarter after quarter after quarter,” she told Harwood. “And if I misrepresented those results or those projections I could be held criminally liable. If I had done it, I could have gone to jail. Those are his standards. I think my standards are what the American people would appreciate politicians or people running for office being held to.”
That’s not to say that she’ll let Trump off the hook entirely for his personal comments, but Fiorina says she doesn’t play the gender card, either:
If Carly focuses on her rise in the business world, she might score points at Trump’s expense, Liz Mair writes:
Yes, Carly knows what it’s like to be a bigshot in the board room, desperately sought after as a guest by cable business news channels and a featured speaker by big name business leadership conferences. She also knows what it’s like to be the receptionist who takes crap on her boss’ behalf from angry people all day long, who pulls down a meager paycheck, probably is subjected to rudeness if not harassment routinely, and who has had to use every tool in her arsenal to get ahead.
That matters, for several reasons.
First, Carly is more likely to have empathy for those working at the bottom of the totem pole than do those whose personal, familial circumstances have made and kept them remote from average workers and their concerns. She is more likely to understand the challenges facing them and how government can act—or get out of the way—and make their lives better.
Second, she is capable of taking on big challenges and rising to meet them—with zero safety net underneath her.
Third, she has ideas as to how American workers can get ahead that are cultural and practical, not merely policy-based. This matters, since a significant amount of the President’s power is exerted through use of the bully pulpit on issues that may never be legislated or regulated, and since it’s been demonstrated that when it comes to addressing, say, compensation increase issues in the workplace, discrimination, flex-time opportunities or lack thereof, and other challenges that too many Americans face, legislation and litigation may help less than certain direct actions that employees can take themselves. Wouldn’t it be great to have a president who understands this, from personal experience, and can help people deal with very real challenges without seeing an executive order as a panacea?
Fourth, Carly knows how to turn nothing, or nothing much, into something—a trait America could use in a leader right now as various indicators ranging from the pure economic to reputational as concerns the international stage suggest we’re backsliding, and becoming a shadow of the amazing, powerhouse nation, the best in the world, that we have previously been and desperately want to be again. Unlike a lot of leaders—in politics, or elsewhere—when Carly sees a challenge, she runs directly at it. That may be risky and disadvantageous from a self-preservation perspective; it also means she may stand a better chance of fixing really major problems, such as those plaguing the Veteran’s Administration, simply by having a different approach to problem-solving and being more of a risk-taker.
In conversations with voters in various areas, my impression is that Liz’ first two points are spot-on. Much of the details into which Liz delves will have the eyes of most voters glassing over, but the first point especially will hit home. Fiorina didn’t exactly start out in poverty, but she started her career at the bottom rung, a place where expectations are generally modest in terms of career outcomes. Succeeding from that starting point will matter, but what will matter most is that voters will know that Fiorina understands their working- and middle-class concerns as well as the boardroom. Trump’s support comes from other emotional connections, but it’s worth betting that Fiorina’s will last longer if she can articulate that quality clearly in tonight’s debate, perhaps especially if she can stay at arms-length from infighting with Trump.