Carly Fiorina At The GOP Debate Is The One To Watch Because She's Already Proved She Has What It Takes

Carly Fiorina's luck has taken a turn for the better. After slowly beginning to battle back in the polls, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO was invited last week to participate in the second GOP primary debate at California's Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, shifting her campaign's momentum forward significantly. If her performance at last month's forum is any indication, Fiorina could easily win Wednesday's debate.

Coming off of a rough few weeks of pummeling by rival GOP candidate Donald Trump, Fiorina is going into the second round of debates swinging. Just last week, Trump blasted Fiorina in an interview with Rolling Stone, telling reporter Paul Solotaroff that no one would vote for Fiorina because of her looks. "Look at that face!" he told Solotaroff. "... Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!"

Despite Trump's insults, Fiorina is having the last laugh. In addition to winning a coveted spot at the next big debate, her numbers have begun to rise as well. And while she still hasn't broken the top five, she certainly has sailed past one-time party favorites like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, capturing a combined average of around four percent of the prospective vote.

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But winning a seat at the debate is one thing — winning the evening's scuffle is another thing entirely. Still, the situation is looking up. Given her showing at the otherwise-lackluster GOP forum in August, it's likely that Fiorina won't just establish an early lead on Wednesday night — she'll leave everyone else behind in the dust.

Both the public and the media declared Fiorina the winner of the August GOP forum within minutes of her first few answers. That same night, Business Insider reported that the former HP CEO had dominated Google's trending searches and was one of social media's most buzzed-about topics. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich joked on Twitter, "They should invite carly fiorina back for the 9 oclock debate."

Campaign advisor and former Mitt Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom took to Twitter as well, quipping,

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That doesn't mean the fight will be an easy one. Trump himself has promised not to let up on the businesswoman, telling The New York Times that Fiorina was "fair game" during an interview last week. "I'm not going to call her 'honey' ... I want to talk about her corporate history, her failures at Hewlett-Packard," he said. "And that will be damaging enough to her."

Her tenure at HP has continually proved to be a sore spot for the otherwise stony-faced Fiorina. After first being appointed to the company's executive role in 1999, following a successful run as AT&T's head of North American operations and at its spin-off, Lucent Technologies, Fiorina's good fortune seemed to evaporate. After a much-criticized merger with computer and tech company Compaq, Fiorina laid off some 30,000 workers (many of whom had been loyal employees) due to corporate redundancies. By the time of her highly-publicized ousting in 2005, the company had lost half of its net value.

Still, Fiorina has claimed that not all of it was as terrible as it seemed from the outside. She even claims that there were a few bright spots. "We quadrupled the growth rate to 6.5 percent [and] we tripled innovation to produce an average of 15 patents a day," she wrote in a CNN op-ed this past August. "Hewlett-Packard grew from the 28th to 11th largest company in the United States during my tenure." It may not be much, but compared to the remainder of her otherwise bleak tenure, it's definitely an important highlight.

If Fiorina wants to beat The Donald at his own game on Wednesday, she'd be wise to remember all of her pro-HP bullet points. And if she can't do that, then she needs to at least hit back just as hard, and get her hands dirty.