Fiorina's hands off strategy in Iowa raises some questions

So how’s Carly Fiorina doing in Iowa after her widely touted debate performance? While the poll of polls average hasn’t caught up yet (and won’t until a few more samples drive the pre-debate ones off the board) she recently rang up a score of 13%, close behind Ben Carson for third place. That was a fairly massive jump from the three to four percent she’d been receiving before that. Good news for Carly, right? Well… yes, but it’s a qualified yes. As things stand so far, the former HP CEO seems happy to keep doing town hall meetings, coffees and other hand to hand events while putting no resources into the tricky logistics of getting ready to win a caucus. (USA Today)

In some Iowans’ eyes, businesswoman Carly Fiorina bested Trump in the recent prime-time GOP debate. But when they try to leverage their excitement for her into helping her cause in the caucuses, they find she has no Iowa office and a skeleton campaign operation here.

“I don’t know if she can maximize the positive feedback she’s getting,” said Dallas County Republican Bev McLinden, a passionate Fiorina fan who has not yet been able to find a place to plug in to volunteer for her campaign.

“I’m a little bit confounded. I don’t see the activity out there, so that’s a little bit frustrating,” McLinden told The Des Moines Register.

Whether Fiorina can capitalize on her higher polling in Iowa and climb to greater heights here hinges on a strategy that no other GOP candidate is attempting: She’s leaving the nitty-gritty work of organizing for the Iowa caucuses to her super PAC.

Seriously? She doesn’t even have an office in Iowa? I’m not even sure what sort of signal that sends but there are a few possibilities beyond what’s speculated in the USA Today article. It’s possible that, like some other candidates in the past, Fiorina doesn’t really see Iowa as “her crowd” and wants to keep her powder dry for other early contests which come afterward. She can afford to do a bunch of speeches just to keep her hand in the game but essentially be happy with a 3rd place finish if the evangelicals want to go with Trump, Carson or whoever and then move on to New Hampshire.

It’s also possible, I suppose, that she really is leaving it to her Super PAC and trusting them to get the job done and make her competitive. That’s a pretty big ask, though, depending on how much experience they have between them. (Particularly since she’s theoretically not supposed to be coordinating with them.) Gearing up for a caucus is very different than the preparations for a normal primary election. You don’t win Iowa with an air war, as we’ve discussed before. You’ve got to have precinct captains everywhere and make sure they are people who can drag bodies out of a crowd and into your corner. Is Carly for America up to that task?

I suppose the real question is how badly she really needs Iowa. She’s a businesswoman and may have already made the calculation that the return on investment there simply doesn’t look good enough to risk the manpower and resources. She’s moved into a very solid 2nd in New Hampshire after being at 6 percent this time last month, and while she hasn’t started surging hugely in the south yet she’s definitely competitive in the top three nationally.

Can you just skip Iowa in a 21st century presidential race and still catch up in both momentum and delegates further down the road? We may be about to find out.

Jazz Shaw Jul 06, 2022 9:01 AM ET