Carly Fiorina's stellar debate performances have vaulted her candidacy into the upper echelon of GOP contenders -- both nationally and in New Hampshire, home to the first-in-the-nation presidential primary. As we noted earlier, a pair of general election NBC News polls show the former business executive leading Hillary Clinton by eight points in that state, and a whopping 14 point margin in Iowa. MSNBC's Morning Joe crew (alongside Hugh Hewitt) mulled over these numbers earlier, with left-leaning co-host Mika Brzezinski declaring the prospect of facing Fiorina "terrifying" to national Democrats:
Liberal columnist Mike Barnicle chimed in, arguing that Fiorina presents as the "direct opposite" of Hillary Clinton in the campaign: "Every time she appears in the debate, I think somewhere in a voter’s mind, they contrast her with Hillary Clinton, and Hillary loses," he said. Fiorina has been disciplined, informed and focused on the trail thus far. She's answered every question thrown her way -- including a more than a few high hard ones -- and has even directly engaged critics protesting her events. Hillary Clinton has been evasive, aloof, annoyed and inconsistent. "Direct opposites," indeed. Fiorina also presents an obvious clear and present danger to the Clinton campaign's longer-term identity politics strategy. Then again, if Fiorina were to win the GOP nomination, her tenure as CEO of Hewlett Packard would no doubt become a major issue in the campaign. Democrats would try to "Romneyize" her, painting her as a ruthless CEO who laid off thousands of workers while lining her own pockets. Fiorina seemed prepared for this criticism in an exchange with Donald Trump and moderator Jake Tapper at the CNN/Salem Radio debate last month:
She has a proactive case to make on the HP issue, and she's demonstrated that she'll make it, aggressively. But Democrats would definitely have several lines of attack to pursue. Fiorina must be ready to parry and counter-attack, a task that may be made easier if Democrats nominate their frontrunner, Hillary Clinton. Clinton is a privileged plutocrat and a multimillionaire; hardly a credible carrier of the "average Joe" mantle. Another potential pitfall for the Fiorina camp was resurrected today by the Washington Post, which quotes sources who say Fiorina's 2010 US Senate campaign still owes hundreds of thousands in unpaid bills to vendors and staffers:
Upon his death, Fiorina praised Shumate as “the heart and soul” of her team. She issued a news release praising him as a person who believed in “investing in those he worked with” and offering her “sincerest condolences” to his widow. But records show there was something that Fiorina did not offer his widow: Shumate’s last paycheck, for at least $30,000. It was one of more than 30 invoices, totaling about $500,000, that the multimillionaire didn’t settle — even as Fiorina reimbursed herself nearly $1.3 million she lent the campaign. She finally cleared most of the balance in January, a few months before announcing her run for president. “Occasionally, I’d call and tell her she should pay them,” said Martin Wilson, Fiorina’s former campaign manager, who found Shumate after the pollster collapsed from a heart attack. “She just wouldn’t.”
Asked to account for these reported outstanding IOU's, the Fiorina campaign side-stepped the issue in a statement to Hot Air's Jazz Shaw (see update):
It’s interesting that the Washington Post—to my knowledge—never ran a similar front page headline about Hillary. Hillary, a multi, multi-millionaire, held $20 million in campaign debt for over 4 years. That’s roughly 40 times the amount the 2010 senate campaign had—but the Washington Post barely mentions it. And let’s not forget this is the same media organization that was widely mocked after trying to claim Carly wasn’t a secretary while noting she had been a full time secretary after college. It’s becoming obvious that the Left and their allies in the media are terrified of Carly because she is everything Hillary isn’t—a candidate from outside the political class whose authenticity and grasp of the issues connects with voters because she has the track record to challenge the status quo.
These are savvy digs at Hillary Clinton and the Washington Post, but they're not good enough. Fiorina should address the actual issue at hand, take responsibility, and make things right. Showing the capacity to be an attack dog is important, but more will be expected of a presidential nominee. I'll leave you with this, from the insightful Dan McLaughlin:
Like so many things about Fiorina, this approach makes more sense if you assume she's running for VP. https://t.co/WwE2MPMzHa— Dan McLaughlin (@baseballcrank) October 5, 2015
UPDATE - The Fiorina camp has reached out to clarify a key point: Carly's full 2010 campaign debt "was paid off nearly a year ago," Sarah Isgur Flores writes in an email to Townhall. "The FEC terminated the [campaign] committee, so it's all done." In other words, the crux of WaPo's story is that it took Fiorina years to tie up these loose ends; slow, subject to criticism, but hardly unprecedented. That's why Team Carly is highlighting the parallel Hillary example: Her campaign owed tens of millions of dollars after she lost the 2008 Democratic primary, and the ledger wasn't totally settled for more than four years.