- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — SIMI VALLEY — Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina took center stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Monday evening and made clear that she hopes there will again be a place for her there when she returns in September for a GOP presidential debate.

“I think my candidacy has momentum,” she said, asserting her belief that voters will soon tire of candidates who create controversy but offer no substance.

“I have faith in the American people and their good judgment,” she said. “I think ultimately they will figure this out.”

She named no names, but it was evident she was referring to billionaire Donald Trump, who has surged to the top of the 16-candidate pack in GOP presidential polls.

If Fiorina’s position in the polls does rise, it likely will not be soon enough to land her a spot in the main event at the first two Republican presidential debates. They will take place Aug. 6 in Cleveland and Sept. 16 in Simi Valley.

Sponsors of each event have decided to split the debates into two parts — one for the 10 first-tier candidates who rank highest in national opinion polls and a second for the remaining six contenders. At this point, Fiorina, who stands at 1 percent or lower in most polls, would find herself in the smaller group.

Whatever stage she takes, Fiorina left no doubt in a 35-minute speech on international affairs that she advocates a tough-as-nails foreign policy — beginning with beefing up the military and extending to aggressive policies against Iran, the Islamic State, Russia and China.

“We need a president who will show our adversaries we will not be bullied or intimidated,” she said. “We have the bravest, strongest fighting force the world has ever seen. It’s time we act like it.”

Fiorina issued a stern warning about the danger China poses to U.S. national security.

“China is building their economic power, and make no mistake — they will wield it ruthlessly,” she said. “We must push back against rising Chinese aggression.”

Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO and one-time U.S. Senate candidate in California, entered the race in May.

Her status, she acknowledged, was and remains the least-known among a large field of candidates that includes eight current or former governors, five current or former U.S. senators and a reality TV show celebrity.

California Republican strategist Rob Stutzman said while Fiorina will likely be hurt by second-tier status in the early debates, her skill as a speaker and motivator creates a potential path to becoming a legitimate contender.

“When people see her, they like her,” Stutzman said, noting Fiorina “got very high marks at retail politics” during her 2010 Senate campaign.

While that skill doesn’t make much of an impact in a general election in California, he said, it could pay dividends in a small state like Iowa and the limited universe of voters there who participate in the first-in-the-nation presidential nominating caucus.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see her finish third in Iowa. If she does that, she gets a ticket to move on,” he said. “But is there enough oxygen for her? I don’t know.”

Fiorina’s appeal on the stump was evident on Monday, as she attracted a standing-room-only crowd at the Reagan Library and received an enthusiastic response.

In addition to not having a background as one of what she repeatedly and derisively referred to as America’s “political class,” Fiorina stands out among the Republican field of candidates for another reason: her gender.

In introducing Fiorina, Reagan Foundation Executive Director John Heubusch said her presence in the race helped inspire the decision made by the foundation and media partner CNN to host a second debate to ensure that all candidates get a shot at national television exposure.

“How do you exclude,” he asked, “the only woman in a Republican field that includes 15 men?”

Fiorina said she hopes no one will vote for her on the basis of her gender, but acknowledged that with the front-runner status of Democrat Hillary Clinton, some seem to believe the time has come.

“If you’re ready for a woman president, how about one who’s honest and competent and can do the job?” Fiorina asked.

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(c)2015 Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.)

Visit Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.) at www.vcstar.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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