Carly Fiorina Won The Republican Debate By Channeling Her Inner Miles Davis
The fourth GOP primary debate was wild. From Donald Trump's desperate attempts to remain relevant to Ben Carson's generic pandering to Ted Cruz's multiple missteps, the party frontrunners managed to turn the showdown into an all-out battle for first place. It was good news, however, for Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO whose presence in the polls has been largely ignored since late September. Staying the course and ignoring the chaos, it seemed, was the key to winning the fourth GOP debate, and Fiorina was more than capable of keeping her cool under pressure.
Of course, it would have been easy to fade away into the background. Just making it to Tuesday's debate stage in Milwaukee, Wisconsin wasn't going to be enough to save anyone from the guillotine, let alone give them a bump in credibility or an automatic pass to the next round. Between backhanded commentary and the snarky rhetoric circling the GOP camp in recent days (not a new trend, but certainly more persistent than usual), the easiest way for candidates to have scored points with the electorate would have been to go on the offensive before anyone else could attack first.
But voters have begun to tire, and that sort of vengeful behavior is starting to take a toll. With candidates like Trump, who has built much of his candidacy on that sort of mean-spiritedness, slowly dropping in the polls, a new shift is taking place. And on Tuesday night, Fiorina took full advantage of that fact.
"Socialism starts when government creates a problem and then steps in to solve the problem that it created," Fiorina lamented at one point, citing what she claimed to be problematic policies of Bernie Sanders, rather than turning the heat on her Republican rivals. The line drew raucous applause from the crowd. For much of the night, the former CEO kept to a similar theme, choosing to attack left-wing rivals and highlight her own policies with the time allotted.
Fiorina did manage to get in a few barbs. After Trump bragged that he "knew" Vladimir Putin, claiming that he had previously shared a green room with the Russian president between their respective 60 Minutes interviews on Sept. 27, Fiorina pounced. "I have met Putin as well," she quipped. "Not in a green room for a show, but in a private meeting." The crowd's uproarious response spoke volumes. For the moment, she was the Republican Party darling once more.
For most of the debate, the old Fiorina seemed to be back, digging up compelling tidbits and citing statistics where her rivals floundered, and wisely staying out of the majority of the angry bickering. Despite one chilly moment with Trump, in which the billionaire mogul bitterly asked why she kept "interrupting everybody," Fiorina kept her composure.
Whether it was her thoughts on the need to arm Kurdish forces in their fight against the Islamic State or her impassioned closing statement, in which she asked audience members to picture what another Clinton presidency might look like, Fiorina was on her game more than ever. Considering her shaky future on the 2016 trail, the debate marked a huge victory for the otherwise-beleaguered businesswoman.
"Under a President Fiorina, we will restore the character of this nation," said Fiorina in her closing statements. "We will take our government back." If Fiorina keeps to the same sort of game plan she debuted once more on Tuesday night, that notion might very well become a reality.