My friend, and frequent Fox News sparring partner, Ann Coulter often reminds her right-wing audiences that in “every presidential election since 1950 — except Goldwater in ’64 — the Republican would have won, if only the men had voted.”
Well, what if all those women saw a female at the top of the GOP ticket?
With that thought in mind it is time to pay attention to Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett Packard, as she begins her entry into the 2016 primary contest for the GOP nomination.
Fiorina is taking the all the steps necessary to launch a serious presidential GOP campaign. She has hired professional staff, set up a PAC, given high-profile speeches in Iowa and New Hampshire. She is now preparing a book tour to begin in April.
Politically she is positioning herself as the one Republican able to take on the likely Democratic candidate for president — Hillary Clinton — without fear of being called sexist. A vote for Fiorina would also allow conservative women voters to be a part of the historic drive to elect our country’s first woman president.
I have long argued that the GOP is in need of strong, credible female candidates. Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Christine O’Donnell have most recently held the title of America’s best-known female Republicans. But they failed to attract support beyond the GOP base because of their extreme Tea Party rhetoric.
The big donors and leaders of the mainstream GOP did not take them seriously.
With the 2016 election approaching a new day is dawning for the image of women in the GOP. Fiorina, along with Iowa’s new U.S. Senator Joni Ernst; New Mexico Gov. Susanna Martinez; and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley represent a different class of Republican women politicians – they have shown the ability to play to the political middle and have impressive life accomplishments outside of politics.
For Ernst, it is her years of military service. Martinez and Haley are minority women who have governed their home states. For Fiorina, her record as the first woman to lead a Fortune 20 company makes her far more than a token woman conveniently pushed to the front of the Republican ranks to counter Clinton.
At a time when the Republicans are likely to face the first serious female nominee from the Democrats there is no getting away from the added value Fiorina brings to the table as a woman.
Women made up the majority of the 2012 presidential electorate – 53 percent. American women voted for President Obama over Mitt Romney by 11 points and in doing so, gave him a decisive re-election victory.
The GOP has a problem winning the supports of women voters, especially younger, educated, single and minority women, in presidential elections. And the top two choices of most Democrats for the 2016 nomination are consistently two well-known women, former Secretary of State Clinton and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
Enter Fiorina who told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” that she is now 90 percent sure to be a candidate for the Republican nomination.
Her speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit was well received by conservative activists. There, she unveiled a stinging attack on Hillary Clinton that set the Internet abuzz: “Like Hillary Clinton, I too have travelled hundreds of thousands of miles around the globe. But unlike her, I have actually accomplished something. Mrs. Clinton, flying is an activity not an accomplishment.”
The latest Real Clear Politics average of 2016 poll does not list her among 12 potential GOP candidates because she has either not been included in the polls or has yet to register any support.
A savvy businessman (or businesswoman) might look at that and see tremendous potential: she has nowhere to go but up in the polls.
Jeb Bush has spent the last month locking up all of the big NYC/Wall Street donors and freezing all of the other potential GOP candidates out of the fundraising race. He will also have a lock on the big money donations from Texas energy barons loyal to his family and his brother.
There really is only one, remaining big well of potential GOP donors that Bush does not have a lock on: Silicon Valley and technology where Fiorina made her name.
Fiorina’s candidacy would not be without its challenges – she lost her only bid for elected office by 10 points in 2010 when she challenged Barbara Boxer for the US Senate. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s television advertisement hit Fiorina hard:
“As the CEO of HP, Carly Fiorina laid off 30,000 workers. Fiorina shipped jobs to China. And while Californians lost their jobs, Fiorina tripled her salary, bought a $1 million yacht and five corporate jets.”
Also, at a time when Americans are concerned about income inequality – the wealthy Fiorina might have a “Romney problem” where she is seen as the personification of corporate greed and the “one percent.”
As Josh Kraushar, a reporter for the National Journal wrote after CPAC: “Walker-Fiorina 2016? If receptions at CPAC determined the future trajectory of presidential campaigns, that ticket would be awfully plausible. But even after the CPAC sugar high, Fiorina looks to be an increasingly plausible contender who could leave her mark on the crowded field.”
In less than five months, Fox News Channel is scheduled to host the first debate of the 2016 Republican Presidential Primary.
Fiorina looks on track to be on that stage as the only woman contending for the nomination in what look more and more like a race that will be defined by at least one woman candidate and if Fiorina is in the race, possibly two.
Juan Williams is a co-host of FNC’s “The Five,” where he is one of seven rotating Fox personalities.