- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 19, 2015

Carly Fiorina is preparing to challenge conventional campaign wisdom that says the Republican presidential nominee must place in the top three in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, instead preparing a longer but less-expensive campaign strategy.

Stephen DeMaura, executive director of the Carly for America super political action committee, said Mrs. Fiorina — who is poised to be the lone woman in the field, a business leader and a Washington outsider — can appeal to various factions of the Republican Party, giving her a chance to hang in the race long enough to shake it up.

Mr. DeMaura is also planning on a lower-cost strategy, saying his super PAC needs to raise between $5 million and $10 million to pose a credible threat in the early primary states, which is only a small fraction of the amount other campaigns are contemplating raising.

“I don’t think anyone expects her to win the early states, Mr. DeMaura said. “We will compete hard for votes there, but by the time the early states vote, she will have introduced herself to voters through debates, campaigning and the media. The field will narrow, and [then] we will be able to compete with some of the more established candidates.”

Mrs. Fiorina has said that there is a “higher than 90 percent” chance she’ll run, and likely make an announcement in late April or early May.

Political observers say the 60-year-old businesswoman faces an uphill battle, pointing out that she has never held political office and is not well known among primary voters.

They also say that while she is smart and comes across well on television, it remains to be seen whether her failed 2010 bid to unseat Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, earned her the sort of retail skills that are needed to compete for voters on the ground in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Mrs. Fiorina will also have to grapple with the feeling among many Republican operatives that she is auditioning for vice president or a Cabinet position in the next Republican administration. Her allies say she is open to the idea of vice president.

She has yet to gain much traction. A nationwide Fox News poll released late last month showed that she received support from 1 percent of likely Republican voters, tying her with Gov. John Kasich of Ohio and former Gov. George Pataki of New York.

She’ll need to do far better than that to reach the threshold for even getting into the debates sanctioned by the Republican National Committee, but if she can get there, those debates offer her a platform to move up.

“The most important thing that they have to worry about is they need to get her on the debate stage, because when she is on the debate stage, she will be surrounded by men,” said Craig Robinson, a former GOP operative who runs The Iowa Republican website. “That will get her the most in the long run. She needs to get on the stage.”

Mr. Robinson said that Mrs. Fiorina could benefit from having lower expectations then some of the other candidates, meaning she could survive a poor showing in Iowa and New Hampshire, where candidates such as Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and the last two caucus winners — former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee — will probably need strong early showings.

“Candidates that don’t have huge expectations can kind of play the long game,” he said. “So when the campaign moves past Iowa, what if you knock out five or six of these candidates where the basis of their candidacy was they were supposed to win Iowa. Then running the hang-around type of strategy kind of makes sense to me.”

But Neil Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics and Political Library at St. Anselm College, suggested the idea of hanging around, without winning an early primary or caucus state, is a bit far-fetched.

“That’s staff downgrading expectations, which is what they are supposed to do,” Mr. Levesque said. “I think that someone who wants to be president needs to win the New Hampshire primary. If you can’t win where it is a fair fight, I just don’t see how it ends well.”

Whatever the wisdom of her strategy, some conservatives say the GOP could benefit from having her as part of the field.

Carly Fiorina can take on Hillary Clinton in ways that men in gray suits and red ties can’t,” said Charlie Gerow, a board member of The American Conservative Union. “She can close the so-called ‘gender gap’ and attract women back to the GOP.”

Speaking to reporters last week, Mrs. Fiorina echoed that argument, saying she can defuse Democrats’ accusation that the GOP is waging a “war on women.”

“She may not be showing the way you’d prefer in the early polls, but her numbers will start to increase as people get to know her, her story and her views,” Mr. Gerow said. “Once her awareness level increases, there is no doubt in my mind that she’s a legitimate contender for the nomination.”

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