Carly Fiorina didn’t balk at the decision by Fox News to include only the top 10 contenders in the five most recent national polls as contestants in the first Republican presidential primary debate.
When the announcement came that she was not among them, Fiorina took it in stride, acknowledging that her political “outsider” status means her work is cut out for her.
You might even say she took the setback “like a man.”
But as the only female GOP candidate, Fiorina is a tremendous asset to the field, and not simply because she is a woman.
Unlike many of her primary opponents who are easily distracted by commentaries from fellow contenders on their own side of the aisle, Fiorina has exhibited a laser-like focus on the person she would almost certainly face next November.
That may be because as the CEO of Hewlett-Packard – and the first woman to lead one of the nation’s top 20 companies – Fiorina learned to keep her eye on the bottom line. In this case, that line would be the defeat of presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Or it may be because she takes a bit more seriously what Ronald Reagan called the “11th Commandment,” which is “Thou shall not speak ill of other Republicans.”
It’s just as likely her political strategy is an outgrowth of her personality: fierce, focused and unflappable.
Being the only woman in the GOP race has its obstacles. It’s inevitable Fiorina will be subjected to those token and often inane “lady questions.”
In a June op-ed piece on Medium, she describes a recent encounter with a reporter who “said he’d never talked to a presidential candidate with pink nail polish. Another reporter asked me if I thought hormones would prevent a woman from serving in the Oval Office.”
But she is also asked about Planned Parenthood, and, as a female Republican candidate, Fiorina’s voice on such issues is more than just a punch line.
Reverting to tiresome “war on women” rhetoric, Clinton is signaling she’ll make gender one of her main weapons in the general election.
But it’s a less potent weapon if she faces another woman on the ballot.
Fiorina’s immediate challenge is getting more primary voters to give her a serious look. If she can do that, at the next debate look for her on the main stage with the guys – where she will prove she’s more than just the other woman running for president.