Carly Fiorina, the millionaire former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, announced her intention to run for the Republican nomination for president Monday morning via Twitter and an appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America.
— Carly Fiorina (@CarlyFiorina) May 4, 2015
Her candidacy may be only a few hours old, but already Fiorina is facing a campaign-debilitating question: What will her candidacy bring that other Republicans cannot? Or, in other words, why should the Republican leadership believe she would be able to win the White House for the party?
Self-described on her Twitter profile as “A conservative who believes in unlocking human potential & holding govt accountable,” Fiorina’s public imagine is largely defined by her time at Hewlett-Packard. She spent six years leading the technology company, presiding over its controversial $25 billion acquisition of Compaq. At the time, that merger was seen as disastrous, but has since been applauded.
She was the first woman to run a Fortune 20 company. She has sat atop lists of the most powerful women in corporate America, although some rankings of top tech CEOs place her lower because of the often-vilified Compaq merger. Her political persona depends heavily on her business credentials. In 2010, Fiorina launched an unsuccessful challenge to unseat three-term California Sen. Barbara Boxer, a battle she lost by 10 points. Then, as now, Fiorina is molding her career to be her biggest asset.
Her campaign website highlights her abilities as a problem solver, as well as her strong track record of making unpopular but necessary decisions and bring growth — all typical pitches of a business leader-turned-politician. Due to her lack of experience and political exposure, Fiorina has much more work to do than her Republican competitors to show voters what kind of conservative she is.
The problem is that Fiorina’s conservative beliefs are not much to distinguish her. Here’s a look at her views on a number of key issues.
Gun control: Fiorina has espoused a far-right view on the issue of gun control. In 2010, with her campaign website describing her as a “a strong proponent of protecting Americans’ Second Amendment rights,” Fiorina received an endorsement from the National Rifle Association. She opposed the Clinton administration’s 1994 semi-automatic gun ban, and Politifact’s truth-o-meter noted that “it seems fair to think that Fiorina would oppose a ban that was the same as the 1994 ban.”
Even more controversially, she expressed support during her Senate bid for allowing some suspected terrorists on the no-fly list to purchase firearms. When Democrat incumbent Barbara Boxer drew attention to this fact, Fiorinia said: “Barbara Boxer knows perfectly well the difference between the terrorist watch list and the no-fly list, and if she doesn’t know the difference, then that’s really a problem.”
Climate change: Fiorina believes that climate change is not only a scientifically verifiable fact, but that it is also caused by humans. But according to her, the government has limited ability to address the problem. During a February speech in the key primary state of New Hampshire, she implied that placing harsh regulations on the coal industry is not the answer.
Health care: During a 2014 appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, Fiorina said that the Affordable Care Act should be repealed because it has not accomplished its primary objective of decreasing America’s uninsured population and because it has increased health-care costs. She offered no alternative, but suggested the health care marketplace should be more competitive.
Immigration: When running for Boxer’s Senate seat, Fiorina gave her support to the DREAM Act, Republican-opposed legislation that would give legal status to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, provided they meet certain requirements.
However, she opposes creating a path to citizenship for other undocumented immigrants, as Obama has suggested, because it would be unfair to those who came to the United States legally. She has criticized likely Republican opponent Jeb Bush for supporting the “grown-up plan,” which would give undocumented immigrants a path to legal status.
“It’s easy to say, ‘Well, anything you can propose is amnesty.’ But that’s not a plan,” he told CNBC.
Education: Jeb Bush is “dead wrong” about Common Core, the controversial educational standards, according to Fiorina. When asked why she opposes the program in an interview with The Christian Post, she claimed that federal involvement in education has only made the system worse. “There’s no connection between spending more money in our nation’s capital and a better school system,” she explained.
Her opinions come with heavy rhetoric and little in the way of actual solutions, which is not atypical in campaign discourse among either party. Fiorina, in a position paper published while running for the Senate, advocated for giving local school districts the most control, creating metric-based accountability in schools, and devising other solutions for creating more parent choice.
She acknowledged that the ethnic achievement gap remains a problem, but offered no suggestions for a fix. She also gave her support for the Bush-era “No Child Left Behind” for setting high standards and the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” for using international benchmarks.
Taxes: In a Facebook post, Fiorina wrote that the United States’ “current tax system is in desperate need of reform.” In that same piece, she expressed concern that Washington does not know “where all your tax dollars are going” because lawmakers “never examine any budget from top to bottom.”
Her solution is simplifying the tax code and employing a strategy called zero-based budgeting, in which the amount of funding a department receives is built up from zero, not the amount it received the previous year (the current practice). As to how she would simplify the tax code and make it more transparent, she offered no specifics.
Social issues: Fiorina’s views of abortion and gay marriage are fairly consistent with those of the broader Republican Party. She is in favor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which bans abortions 20 weeks after fertilization, except in cases of rape and incest, or if the mother’s life is in danger. “We are a compassionate society and must apply our principles to all, not just the born,” she wrote in a March post for the Susan B. Anthony blog.
In a 2010 California radio interview, Fiorina pledged that she “absolutely would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade if the opportunity presented itself.” And while she does believe gay couples should be afforded the right to civil unions, she supported California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage from its passage in November 2008 until it was ruled unconstitutional in 2010.
Foreign policy: Like many Republicans and even some Democrats, Fiorina believes Congress should have a rule in the Iranian nuclear negotiations. In an interview with a Southern California radio station in early April, she criticized Obama’s deal. First, she argued the president was presenting the American people with a “false choice” by suggesting that there is no way to push back against countries like Iran in the Middle East “unless we go to war.”
In her view, Obama’s deal was not a strong stand, but an appeasement because it met none of the administration’s goals for dismantling Iran’s nuclear program. Essentially, she believes the terms are bad. “President Obama laid out a very clear set of goals for this deal when this process first started,” she said. “Not a single one of those goals has been achieved.” Fiorina added that the one thing the United States must do is support its allies, namely Israel, which has requested the Obama administration stop talking to Iran.
As for handling the Islamic State, all she has suggested is sending more weapons to the Kurds. The Kurds, the fiercely independent minority group located in an oil-rich region of northern Iraq with whom the United States has had a decades-long but occasionally uneasy partnership, have been able to stall the Islamic States’ advance thanks to its independent fighting force, known as the Peshmerga.
For insight on just what kind of campaign Fiorina will run, just look at her 2010 campaign ad that is affectionately known as “Demon Sheep.”
Follow Meghan on Twitter @MFoley_WSCS