What is Happening to Carly Fiorina?

It feels like we’ve been in this campaign cycle for a while already, does it not? Still, the general election is more than a year away. One thing that has been somewhat consistent is the outsider advantage, which seems to be the flavor of the early 2016 season. Hillary has had to deal with The Bern, and while Sanders is not new to the political scene by any means, he has become a popular option to Clinton, Part II. For the Republicans, the non-politicians have all found unexpected support among voters. Currently, Ben Carson has gained and is leading in places such as Iowa where he is several percentage points ahead of Trump. But where is Carly?

Reaction to Fiorina’s campaign journey has included plenty of “Oh, she’s the GOP’s answer to Hillary”, but a strong performance in the August 6 “lower tier” debate seemed to change the tide. By the time the second debate arrived on September 16, Fiorina had risen enough in the polls to be included on the main debate stage, being the only candidate to transition to the “upper tier”. Her controlled demeanor and a solid policy stance on the issues has made her a standout. She also performs well in debates and interviews, and is not shy in confronting those in the media or her fellow candidates. Since that second debate, however, her poll numbers have fallen.

As reported in The New York Times:

A CNN/ORC poll released on Tuesday showed her support had plummeted to just four percent, a staggering 11-point decline in just one month. Things were a little better for Fiorina in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. In that survey she’s fallen to seven percent support, good enough for sixth place. Fiorina also plunged to sixth place in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll released Wednesday with just three percent of support.

As shown at Real Clear Politics here, Fiorina’s average, as gathered from major polling, is just 5.5%. This is only one month after her headline-grabbing performance at The Reagan Library where she came face-to-face with Trump (after he ridiculed her actual face), and more importantly, where she fiercely condemned Planned Parenthood, among other things. So what is happening?

It is hard to say for sure in this political climate, but GOP voter affection seems centered on whomever is the loudest at the moment. This can either be the candidate’s own doing, as seen many times with Trump, or the negative (and even incorrect) reporting of a candidate’s statements, as with Carson. To be sure, Carly Fiorina shines in the scheduled arena of the debate stage, and has risen after a strong performance. In the weeks between, however, her less bombastic but solid style doesn’t make waves, and as William A. Jacobson at Legal Insurrection said of Carly, “Out of sight, out of mind.” On Friday, Carly, ever measured and unruffled in her responses, addressed the being “out of sight” in the form of not spending advertising money:

“We are spending our money very carefully, because we have to go the long haul.”

“Of course, I take advantage of earned media any chance I get. The debates are a really important opportunity for me. Every time I get out on that debate stage more people say ‘Oh, I didn’t know she was running for president. I kind of like her.’ So there will come a time for ads but honestly, other candidates have already spent millions on ads and it’s done nothing for them. So I think the time is not yet.”

We live in an American Idol country, where being the loudest or grabbing the most attention is processed as popularity, and that in turn becomes the measure for our choice. This criteria is fine in contests of entertainment, but candidates for president should not be seen as celebrities. Currently, the GOP field is dominated by celebrity appeal in the likes of Trump and Carson, and that is frustrating for those who wish for more substance.

I like Carly. As I’ve said before, she isn’t my #1 choice for the Oval Office, but she’s on my short list. It remains to be seen whether the recent fall in the polls will last, or if it is just a stall between solid debate performances. Either way, Carly Fiorina is one to watch.

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