Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of HP was widely cited as the debate’s best performer. Her first comments of any substance were around her credentials as an outsider and commented on the corruption on Washington: “if somebody has been in the system so long, they don’t realise how broken the system is…75% of the American people think the government is corrupt, 82% believe that problems have gone on because nobody has challenged the status quo”. This is was brilliant politics because it fans the flames of the Republican base and encourages them to vote for one of the three candidates on the stage, including herself, who aren’t politicians.
Her next point was about Russia and in her answer she wished to show herself as strong on the military; her strategy to deal with Putin was not to talk to him, rebuild the 6th Fleet, rebuild Star Wars in Poland, conduct “aggressive military exercises in the Baltic States”, and send a few thousand troops to Germany. I don’t think Ms Fiorina has considered how those countries would react when America essentially began colonising the entirety of Eastern Europe, and I kept thinking that if Putin was going to invade Estonia, putting US soldiers in Germany wouldn’t deter them from doing so; geographically its like saying that Canada are about to attack Maine so to deter them you should send troops to Northern Mississippi. Surely if you wanted to deter Russia attack the Baltic States, you would put troops in the Baltic States and not 1,800 km away. She also said she wanted to stop Russia becoming geo-politically strong in the Middle East by arming the Kurds in Iraq, sending bombs and ammo to Jordan, and sharing intelligence with Egypt.
Fiorina’s next question was about Planned Parenthood in which she eventually said she would defund the programme and dared Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama to watch the heavily edited videos that appeared to show employees selling body parts of aborted foetuses for medical research, however these videos were later exposed as misleading as the money exchanged was for transportation and therefore Planned Parenthood isn’t profiteering from the practise. The reason I say ‘eventually’ is not that she was unequivocal in her opposition to Planned Parenthood, it’s that she spent most of the time talking about Iran because she used decided to link the two in an incredibly nonsensical way and used the same talking points as she did in her first debate by sating that she will ring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to support him as well as ringing Ayatullah Ali Khomeini to threaten him with war.
The next part of the event was the main reason that Fiorina was lauded as successful; Donald Trump had previously insulted Fiorina’s facial features before backtracking. Rather than be spineless and allow Trump to get away from his bombastic comments, the former HP CEO stood her ground and said “women all over this country heard what Mr Trump had said”. Trump later asserted that nobody would be mentioning illegal immigration unless he had spoken (racistly) about the issue at his launch event; Fiorina correctly pointed out that immigration was a key issue in 2012, 2008 and 2004, unlike Marco Rubio who didn’t challenge Trump even though he wrote an immigration reform bill that the Senate passed in 2013. She later disagreed with Trump again on the issue of birthright citizenship by essentially explaining how the US Constitution worked to the most popular Republican presidential candidate; Fiorina pointed out that in order to revoke birthright citizenship a constitutional amendment had to be made or somebody would have to bring a case before the Supreme Court so they could rule on the issue.
When asked about the economy and jobs, Fiorina touted her record at HP and, when confronted by the fact that she fired thousands of people, she, politician-esque, decided to shamelessly name-drop: “when you challenge the status quo you make enemies, Steve Jobs taught me that”. Donald Trump mentioned that a Yale Business School report ranked Fiorina’s time at HP as one of the worst periods of the company’s history, however she dismissed the author of the report as a ‘Clintonite’ before attacking Trump by pointing out that his casino business ran up debt and four projects were declared bankrupt. When Chris Christie tried to criticise Fiorina as only caring about her future career she responded by saying “the election is about leadership, challenging the status quo and unlocking the potential in others”. Whilst in a combative mood she asserted that Hilary Clinton essentially lies about everything and shouldn’t be trusted.
On national security she reiterate that she wanted invest heavily in the military, which would massively increase the deficit and the national debt. She next spoke, briefly, about marijuana and said that she agreed with Rand Paul that legalisation should be an issue for the states but also said that more investment should go into rehabilitation programmes.
Overall her performance was good enough to increase her name recognition and her profile among the Republican base, which at this stage is exactly what she would have wanted. By taking on Trump she challenged his rhetoric with actual policy positions, albeit ridiculous ones, and established herself as a legitimate alternative to Trump for GOP primary voters that are looking for an outsider.