Seeking an edge in the crowded GOP field, Carly Fiorina seizes on gender controversies

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina speaks at the RedState Gathering on Friday in Atlanta.

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina speaks at the RedState Gathering on Friday in Atlanta.

(David Goldman / Associated Press)

Former Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Carly Fiorina bristles at the suggestion that she gets any special treatment as the sole woman among the 17 Republicans running for president. But at the same time, as she seeks to shore up support in the polls, she has made a point of vocally wading into GOP gender controversies.

Fiorina was among the first candidates to criticize Donald Trump over his attacks against Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly following their testy exchanges in last week’s debate. It was the second time in recent days that Fiorina, whose poor polling numbers left her out of the prime-time debate, has seized upon a gender-based controversy as she tries to raise her profile.

“Mr. Trump. There. Is. No. Excuse,” Fiorina wrote on Twitter late Friday after Trump said that “there was blood coming out of [Kelly’s] eyes, blood coming out of her wherever,” widely interpreted as Trump saying Kelly’s aggressive questioning was driven by menstruation, though Trump’s campaign denied it.

On Thursday, Fiorina said that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s questioning of the amount of federal spending on women’s healthcare offered ammunition to Democrats who want to paint Republicans as anti-women.


“It’s disappointing,” Fiorina told reporters. “I spent all of last year with a lot of other conservatives pushing back effectively against the war on women. It’s really disappointing when a front-runner gives the Democrats an ad and a talking point.”

Bush later said he misspoke and was talking only about federal funding of Planned Parenthood.

For Fiorina, it’s an opportune time to be in the spotlight.

Her performance in the preliminary debate for second-tier candidates Thursday was praised by many analysts, and she is seeking a bump in the polls to win a spot on the main stage at the next debate, in September at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.

Some Republican leaders would like to see Fiorina, who unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in California in 2010, in the prime-time debate. Gender controversies could help as they draw attention to Fiorina, who is a sharp critic of Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and likes to point out that her gender separates her from the rest of the GOP field.

“I’m not running because I’m a woman, but the facts are: I am a woman,” she said in an interview this year.

“If Hillary Clinton wants to bring gender into this race, if she wants to run as the first woman president, she can’t do that if she faces me.”


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