Carly Fiorina's Second GOP Debate Performance Compared To Her First Shows She's Got Staying Power

Carly Fiorina may not have the political experience that many GOP presidential hopefuls do, but that hasn't stopped her from delivering inspiring, composed performances in the primary debates. Fiorina's performance in the second Republican debate shows that she's got real staying power in the 2016 presidential race, even if she's not likely to win the nomination.

Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, didn't poll well enough among Republican voters to speak on the main stage of the first Republican debate. But many people, including USA Today's Susan Davis, agreed that Fiorina outshined her competitors in the undercard debate last month. She wasn't afraid to attack Donald Trump for his friendship with the Clinton family. She also took aim at Trump for changing his views on various topics, including abortion and healthcare, suggesting that such flip-flopping made him unfit to be president.

Fiorina also shared coherent specifics for a "tougher" Iran deal. She said that she would personally call Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on her first day in office. (She repeated this assertion in the second debate.) "He might not take my phone call, but he would get the message," Fiorina said. Although she meant a message about a crackdown on Iran's nuclear and military facilities, her strong response also sent a message to Americans watching the debate: She has just as much political potential as the other GOP candidates. Even 2012 presidential candidate Newt Gingrich tweeted that Fiorina was "clearly the big winner in the first debate."

In August's debate, Fiorina also said that if she were elected president, she would begin her time in office by "undoing a whole set of things that President Obama has done," such as revisions to amnesty laws. Even if you don't agree with Fiorina's policies, the fact that she wasn't afraid to be vocal about her dissent with the president shows that she can keep up with the other Republican candidates.

In the second Republican debate on Wednesday evening, Fiorina showed similar gall, taking aim at her competitors (most notably Donald Trump) once again. One of CNN moderator Jake Tapper's first questions of the debate was about the alleged Trump/Fiorina feud — which began with Trump saying "look at that face" in reference to Fiorina in a recent Rolling Stone interview. Despite Trump making a variety of faces, Fiorina remained composed when Tapper asked her whether she'd be comfortable with Trump's fingers "on the keys of the nuclear code." Rather than bash her opponent, Fiorina responded that she'd leave that decision to the voters. (Though she also started her answer by saying "I think Mr. Trump is a wonderful entertainer," a sly burn to his presidential ambitions.)

Fiorina's successful performance in both debates extends much further than her feud with Trump, though. When asked about Russia during the second debate, Fiorina gave a more concrete proposal than her opponents did. Fiorina said that she would rebuild America's missile defense program and conduct regular aggressive military exercises in the Baltic states. (Trump's answer, meanwhile, seemed to consist predominantly of the suggestion that Putin would like him.)

The one point in the second debate where Fiorina seemed to baffle many people was her comparison of the Iran nuclear deal with defunding Planned Parenthood. She said that the Iran deal "has something to do with the defense of the security of this nation," while defunding Planned Parenthood "has something to do with the defense of the character of this nation." Although the comparison was an odd one, Fiorina's remarks were met with a startling round of applause from the conservative audience, as she urged Americans to "force President Obama to veto" a bill to defund Planned Parenthood.

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During the debate in August, former Texas governor Rick Perry, who was a Republican presidential hopeful himself at the time, said that he'd rather have seen Fiorina negotiate the Iran deal than U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (D). His remark shows that high-profile conservatives are starting to recognize Fiorina as a serious player in the 2016 election. And after the August debate, Fox News' Chris Wallace said that Fiorina had a "precision of her message that really cuts through."

A number of people have suggested that Fiorina would be a strong vice presidential candidate on a 2016 Republican ticket, but Fiorina dismissed the idea of herself as a running mate as "sexist" earlier this month in an interview on The Laura Ingraham Show. "The people who say that I am in this for vice president — that's sexist," Fiorina told Ingraham. "I'm in this to win this job. No one talks about the men being veep. I think I'm qualified to do the job ... I am as qualified as any candidate running."