Former CEO of HP Carly Fiorina is still under the impression that she can be the next president and, despite having an average debate performance, is unwavering in this belief. Given the success of outsiders in the Republican primary campaign so far my dismissiveness would seem to be ill-judged however I think that Fiorina isn’t bringing much to the debate that is not also being brought by other candidates. The debate itself proved this point as at times she faded into the background and, although she was specific in regards to some policy areas, she was not asked about a big enough variety of issues for her to stake her case.
Fiorina’s first question came in relation to the economy and was both incredibly vague and needlessly specific. She characterised the “engine of economic growth” as being crushed by a government that “has been growing bigger and bigger, more corrupt, and less effective”. At this point I would have requested specifics as this in isolation is a meaningless platitude designed to appeal to the audience on an emotive level. Her next statement was what I would characterise as too specific by unveiling five things that she would do to improve the economy “zero-based budgeting, reforming the tax code to three pages with no loopholes, review all regulations, hold government officials to account, and have Congress make regulations not bureaucrats”.
In terms of discussing substance this is commendable, but I would question whether the average Republican primary voter knows what zero-based budgeting is, let alone why Fiorina thinks it is superior to other forms of budgeting. The other four answers are very abstract and not especially detailed but I would argue that this is acceptable in terms of galvanising support for your cause before redirecting people to your website or to a campaign event to hear specifics. She would be well advised to learn where to be detailed and where to be brief because otherwise the GOP’s base, which currently thinks that Donald Trump would be the best candidate for president, will not know what she’s talking about.
On the bank bailouts Fiorina was brief in her specifics but did take time to argue that “Dodd-Frank is a stepping stone to socialism” and that “we must take our government back”, both comments that were met with cheers and applause. What this means, unfortunately for the rest of humanity, is that Fiorina is under the impression that any form of governmental regulation of the financial sector is evil. I wish that Dodd-Frank was a stepping stone to socialism, but let me tell you right now that it really isn’t.
In terms of healthcare Fiorina said that Obamacare should be repealed because “it’s crony capitalism at its worst” and the solution is to have a free-market healthcare system where the companies have to compete with each other. In addition to this Fiorina argued that cancer survivors, of which she is one, and other people in high risk pools should be assisted by the states to prevent being discriminated against. For some reason Fiorina doesn’t understand that a free-market system is incompatible with support by the states for people in high risk pools because if such support was given the healthcare system would cease to be a free-market.
On foreign policy Fiorina gave a shopping list of things that she would do. Specifically she said that she would “rebuild the Sixth Fleet, rebuild the missile system in Poland, conduct aggressive military exercises in the Baltic States, put more troops into Germany, and institute a no-fly zone in Syria”. Notwithstanding the eye-watering amount of money that all of these policies would cost to implement, these policies are also impractical.
Considering that the most pressing foreign policy threats are climate change and terrorism increasing the size of the navy is illogical. Also bringing in a no-fly zone would result in the US shooting down Russian aircraft; this combined with more US troops in Europe and conducting aggressive military exercises in the Baltic States would surely provoke a response from Russia.
Finally Fiorina said that “Arabs want to fight ISIS and they need to know that the US has the strongest military in the world”. There is something in the first part of what she said because there are many countries in the region who are fighting ISIS, namely Jordan and Turkey, but the second point’s implication is ridiculous. The implication is that the US needs to show the Arab world that it has the strongest military, which in the context of Republican debates often means more military expenditure and more military activity.
To conclude Fiorina’s debate performance had to be lively and galvanise support in order to continue her campaign but this did not take place. Rather than give an optimistic message she was incredibly serious and at times faded into the background behind the larger characters on the stage. Although she retains her position as an outsider the rise in popularity of candidates to the Right of her has undercut her support among Tea Party Republicans and she is seen as far to extreme for those of the establishment wing.
This debate illustrated something I had thought in private for a while now: she has no constituency. Those who are very right-wing and libertarian in their leanings have Rand Paul or Ted Cruz to choose from, and any moderates who may have moved to support her following the decline of Jeb Bush most likely will migrate to Marco Rubio. The other outsiders have an appeal to a very right-wing strain of populism that is present in the Republican Party that is hostile to the establishment but Fiorina has failed to really tap into that sentiment. Fiorina will not be nominee.