Fiorina’s Commanding Debate Performance Has Democrats Nervous

In late July Hillary Clinton referred to the GOP candidates as “those guys” during a speech in Iowa, either purposefully denigrating or clearly forgetting Republican candidate Carly Fiorina.

“Those guys on the other side, and by the way they are all guys last time I checked,” Clinton said, before pausing for effect. “Oh no. There is one woman. There’s one woman. Sorry, I forgot.”

Something tells me that neither Clinton nor any Democrat will be forgetting the presence of Fiorina anytime soon.

The debate showed Fiorina to be the rare candidate who can balance authority with grace, aggression with humility, calculated policy stances with warmth. And she’s got an origin story that simply can’t be beat, elevating herself from secretary for a temp agency to CEO of one of the world’s biggest businesses. It’s a tale worthy of Horatio Alger, and one that allows her to sell the same hopes and dreams with millions of down-on-their-luck Americans.

In short she’s branded herself a fighter. Heck, she even had to fight to be able to participate in the debate. After seeing a surge in recent polls Fiorina successfully lobbied CNN to change its inclusion rules to take into account her status as part of the top ten. Thank goodness they listened.

Because when Fiorina took the stage, she clearly took command of the room, and maybe even the Republican primary. Using a deft touch that was clearly honed during years of corporate presentations in intimidating board rooms, Fiorina utilized every opportunity she was handed.

She turned Donald Trump’s caustic comments about her appearance, which he later explained were about her “persona,” into an opportunity to relate with women voters.

“I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said,” Fiorina said.

She parried questions about her time as CEO with facts about Hewlett-Packard’s growth under her watch, while also showing how it mixing in some questions about Trump’s record running casinos. But ultimately, she said, it’s about a track record of leadership that Clinton can’t answer to.

“I think track records are very important,” she said. “And Mrs. Clinton has to defend her track record. Her track record of lying about Benghazi, of lying about her emails, about lying about her servers. She does not have a track record of accomplishment.”

She challenged the perception that a political outsider can’t be well-versed in foreign policy by skillfully navigating the complex mix of people and places that could challenge U.S. interests, while also offering the most concrete vision for how to deal with them.

“By the way, the reason it is so critically important that every one of us know General Suleimani’s name is because Russia is in Syria right now, because the head of the Quds force traveled to Russia and talked to Vladimir Putin into aligning themselves with Iran and Syria to prop up Bashar al-Assad,” Fiorina said in audience, somewhat stunned into silence.

And she explained her position on legalizing marijuana by offering a strikingly personal reference to a stepdaughter who lost the battle to drug addiction.

“My husband Frank and I buried a child to drug addiction. So, we must invest more in the treatment of drugs.”

Taken together, it was a potent mixture, that clearly won over viewers. A poll released Friday by Morning Consult found that 29 percent of those who watched the debate said Fiorina won, with Donald Trump coming in second with 24 percent of the vote. The poll also showed that a dramatic spike in respondents who viewed her favorably. Prior to the debate 37 percent said they had a favorable view, but that number jumped to 56 percent post-debate.

The question now is whether the opinion of debate viewers will carry over into the larger electorate. One early poll of New Hampshire voters suggests the answer is a resounding ‘yes.’ The poll, conducted by Voter Gravity, finds that Fiorina now leads the Granite State with 22 percent support, a 4 point edge over billionaire businessman Donald Trump, who has 18 percent support.

There will be more poll results to come over the coming days and weeks, but one thing is for sure – Hillary Clinton won’t be able to forget the name Carly Fiorina anymore.