Diary

Ready for Carly

In the 2016 presidential election the Democrats are betting everything on one candidate whose only real selling point is that she is a woman. The crowded Republican field which will dominate national politics for the next 19 months solved its ideological, ethnic, generational, and geographic diversity problems, but the gender problem remained. Enter the antidote – Carly Fiorina.

The advantages:

– Fiorina is not the Party’s spokesman, and in all likelihood will not be. She can speak for herself, and doesn’t need approval from any group of Party Elders. She also doesn’t need to be concerned about the keepers of the flame of Political Correctness. Her voice will be unadulterated.

– She is a marketer. Prior to her stint as CEO of Hewlett-Packard she made her name as a marketer with AT&T and their spin-off, Lucent Technologies. Since leaving HP a decade ago she has been a prolific speaker in forums ranging from business, to technical, to educational, to religious. She knows how to give a serious talk to an interested group.

– She has direct experience in political campaigns – as [mc_name name=’Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000303′ ]’s leading business advisor in 2008, and in her run for the Senate in California in 2010. Neither ended well, but both offered insights to all of the mechanics and personalities of electioneering at a high level. This is not her first rodeo.

– She has a serious story to tell about the role of women in business. In her early years she worked in a beauty solon, as a secretary for Kelly Services, as a receptionist in a real estate office, and as a broker.  More prominently, she rose to senior VP at AT&T overseeing their hardware and systems division and to president of Lucent’s consumer products business, before becoming CEO of Hewlett-Packard in 1999. During her peak, she was named by Fortune as “the most powerful woman in business”, by Time as one of the 100 most influential people in America, and by Forbes as one of the 10 most powerful women in the world.

– She ticks off a number of other boxes – degrees from Stanford, the University of Maryland, and MIT; founder of the One Woman Initiative with Condaleeza Rice; major sponsor of global micro- lending with Opportunity International; direct experience with leaders from Russia, China, and Israel during her days at Lucent and HP.

And the disadvantages:

– By most measures, she failed as CEO of Hewlett-Packard. She was hired in 1999 over internal favorite Anne Livermore because the Board wanted change – and change they got. The largest initiative of her tenure was the acquisition of Compaq Computer – opposed by Board member Bill Packard – with the subsequent restructuring costing some 18,000 jobs and damage to the paternalistic “HP Way” She favored R&D and outsourcing, and ultimately lost her job in 2005 when the stock got cut in half, a disgruntled Board member leaked internal debates to the New York Times, and her investigation of the Board became public.

– Fiorina’s role in the McCain campaign was also problematic. She joined to run fundraising and serve as a surrogate on business matters, but her star faded after she opined that neither McCain nor Sarah Palin – nor Barack Obama nor Joe Biden – were qualified to run a large corporation, noting that that is not what they were running for. True on both counts, but guaranteed to make negative headlines. Before the selection of Sarah Palin she may have had VP aspirations; later, perhaps a cabinet position; with McCain’s defeat it was back to boards and the lecture circuit.

The swords have come out swiftly – The New Republic uncharitably comparing Fiorina to Sarah Palin; the San Francisco Chronicle complaining about unpaid bills from her 2010 campaign, the Huffington Post complaining about Fiorina’s statement that environmental-driven policies have exacerbated the California drought; CNN’s claims that her time at HP disqualifies her; the Daily Caller complains that the race doesn’t need two women.

The toughest challenge lies ahead for Reince Priebus. The stage is too crowded, and there need to be real requirements for getting into sanctioned debates. It is important for the Republican brand to have a woman with Fiorina’s business credentials to lead the debunking of the “war on women”, but she may not make the cut with enough polling support to qualify. Between now and August when the first of nine sanctioned debates takes place,  she must develop modest polling traction or the Republican National Committee must decide whether to loosen the rules for a few months to maximize the impact of her important voice.

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This week’s video offers a chance to hear Fiorina speak about her background and approach to national and international issues. It is 30 minutes long; the introduction and minutes 8 to 10 are perhaps the best.

www.RightinSanFrancisco.com – 4/24/15