Though many are surprised at Carly Fiorina’s quickly building momentum, I am not. She’s the kind of person who connects with people, both on the stump and in personal conversation. She has based her public policy on principle but with the compassion common to the American character.
As a woman, Mrs. Fiorina delivers a message that every woman candidate should make, and she makes it courageously without being rattled by reporters waiting for a gaff.
Her 43-minute interview on Yahoo News on May 4 with Katie Couric was remarkable for the way the candidate handled questions on her record at Hewlett-Packard, the economy, foreign policy, climate change, abortion, immigration, the lack of female CEOs, workplace diversity, religious freedom, marriage, terrorism and the recent unrest in Baltimore. Her answers were fresh and substantive, and most of all, Mrs. Fiorina did not flinch at Ms. Couric’s probing of her social conservative convictions.
When pressed about the GOP “gender gap” and “extremism” about abortion, Mrs. Fiorina turned the table on Ms. Couric by asking if she knows what the Democrats’ position is. Mrs. Fiorina said: “The Democrats’ policy is that any abortion, any time, for any reason, at any point in a woman’s pregnancy, right up until the last minute, should be paid for by the taxpayer. How do you feel about that? Most women are horrified.”
Her poise under fire comes, in part, from her years at Hewlett-Packard, years that brought her great acclaim as well as the challenge of controversy. She persevered not only through the trials of corporate politics but also through the challenge of cancer, which she overcame as well. She is not just a survivor but a woman uniquely prepared for leadership on the national stage.
As a political candidate, Mrs. Fiorina has a different kind of presence, perhaps because she has joined the race as a relative outsider. She never shakes her fist to prove a point. Rather, she talks about principles and process, about how to take Americans where we need to go and to actually arrive rather than continuing to spin our wheels in muddy promises.
When asked by Megyn Kelly on Fox News (Feb. 26) if life begins at conception, she answered, “Yes,” then turned to the science that has proven the beginning of life: “The DNA in a zygote is the same DNA as the day you die.”
Ms. Kelly brought up in-vitro fertilization and Mrs. Fiorina expressed her concern that such techniques are leading to the cloning of babies to suit parental desires. “That goes too far in my personal opinion,” she said.
Then, unprompted, she went further by saying that rather than focusing on the extremes of the abortion question, we should pay attention to the “common ground” that the majority of Americans agree upon — “that abortion for any reason after five months is wrong so let’s take that common ground.”
Mrs. Fiorina’s public support for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HR 36) could not come at a better time. Delayed since January, the bill finally passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
In both interviews, Mrs. Fiorina stressed the need to respect those who disagree, but where there is common ground it should be claimed. Her views are far from Hillary Clinton’s recent argument that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” to protect abortion on demand.
During the midterm campaign, Mrs. Clinton attacked Joni Ernst, then-GOP candidate for Senate in Iowa. Joni is a mother, veteran, longtime public servant and, like half of the women in this country, pro-life. At a campaign event for Mrs. Ernst’s male opponent, Mrs. Clinton said, “It is not enough to be a woman. You have to be committed to expand rights and opportunities for all women.”
But Mrs. Ernst won the Senate seat. The 2014 midterms made it clear that abortion is dead as a weapon against pro-life candidates. Mrs. Clinton’s condescension towards Mrs. Ernst and other pro-life women was rejected in state after state where hand-picked Emily’s List candidates failed.
But this issue has not just been neutralized. Rather, the pro-life position has the potential to be the kind of issue that speaks to working-class voters, to Hispanics and to women — the kind who are tired of “not being the right kind of women” for Mrs. Clinton and her cronies.
Politics thrives on moments when there is clarity, and Mrs. Fiorina is creating that clarity in the midst of tough questioning. Candidates should learn from her by underscoring their opponents’ extremism on abortion and reframing the life issue around specific legislative proposals.
At the Susan B. Anthony List, we know Carly Fiorina because she has supported our efforts selflessly over several years. We have supported her, most notably in her California Senate race against Barbara Boxer. She’s not the only pro-life candidate in the presidential race, but we know Mrs. Fiorina, as a woman, has a special opportunity to connect with voters across the country with a message that life must always be protected.
She has already shown that she will not run and hide from questions about abortion. She will urge American voters to start where common ground already exists, namely by protecting a child at five months. Such a candidate deserves the respect and serious consideration of every voter who wants to break the political deadlock over the most important civil rights issue of our day. We expect her star to continue its rapid rise.
• Marjorie Dannenfelser is president of the Susan B. Anthony List.