- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 20, 2015

Carly Fiorina’s strong performance in last week’s Republican presidential primary debate has rocketed her up the polls, leaving the top of the GOP field dominated by Washington outsiders and forcing Democrats — especially Hillary Rodham Clinton — scrambling to shed the label of political insider.

Ms. Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, said Sunday she’s confident that her support will continue to grow as more Americans learn about who she is and what she stands for.

A CNN/ORC International poll released Sunday shows her with the support of 19 percent of Republican primary voters, second in the race behind businessman Donald Trump, who remains on top with 24 percent despite what some pundits saw as an unsteady performance in last week’s debate.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson also seems to be benefiting from the fact that he’s not a creature of Washington. The CNN poll puts him at 14 percent, good enough for third place, though he’s slipped by several percentage points from previous polls.

Other candidates once seen as viable contenders for the nomination, such as Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, still are struggling to gain traction. Mr. Walker, in particular, has plummeted in the polls in recent weeks, and his performance at last week’s debate failed to provide him the boost he desperately needs.

As for Ms. Fiorina, who by all accounts was the biggest winner at the GOP’s second presidential debate, her strong presence on stage and grasp of key issues, including those in the foreign policy realm, have catapulted her from also-ran to near-favorite.

“It’s obviously a very important moment because more people know who I am, and we know based on what happened before this debate that as people come to know me they tend to support me,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“So the truth is, we’re going to stay out here working hard every single day so people who maybe were introduced to me for the first time at the debate get to know me a little better,” she added.

Voters’ apparent interest in outside-the-Beltway candidates has led to a strategy shift among other candidates, including Mrs. Clinton.

Having been first lady for eight years, a U.S. senator for eight years and then secretary of state for four years, Mrs. Clinton largely is seen as the ultimate political insider.

But even she has tried to move away from that narrative.

“I cannot imagine someone being more of an outsider than the first woman president,” she said on “Face the Nation” on CBS Sunday. “I think that’s a pretty unconventional choice. I know you’re asking, ‘Do we want people who have never [been] elected to anything, who have no political experience, who have never made any hard choices in the public arena?’ Voters are going to have to decide that.”

Though they didn’t mention each other by name, Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Fiorina also traded shots Sunday over funding for Planned Parenthood, an organization that performs more than 300,000 abortions each year.

Ms. Fiorina hinted that Republicans on Capitol Hill should insist that any government spending bill also should prohibit taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood. Mrs. Clinton called that approach the “height of irresponsibility.”

For his part, Mr. Trump continues to insist that he’s not concerned by Ms. Fiorina or any other candidate in the Republican field.

During an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday — one of his three appearances on weekend political talk shows — Mr. Trump again took aim at Ms. Fiorina’s business record, which he says is mediocre at best and should be the cause of great concern for Republican primary voters.

“Look, she did a terrible job at Hewlett-Packard. She did a terrible job at Lucent. I mean those companies are just a disaster, and she destroyed Hewlett-Packard. And still, the other day, on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, 25,000 additional people were let go, and that was because of the remnants of what she did,” Mr. Trump told ABC News.

“I am not concerned with Carly. I hope she does well. I’d like to see her do well. I think she’s a nice woman, although I don’t know her. But, frankly, you know, but I don’t — I didn’t see the poll. I think I’m still way in first place,” Mr. Trump said.

While Mr. Trump and Ms. Fiorina trade public blows, Mr. Carson on Sunday tried to recover his footing and keep himself from dropping further in the polls.

He had come under fire from some conservative pundits for seemingly failing to have a grasp of key issues during last week’s debate, but he said that he’s still getting accustomed to the “sound bite” formula of debates.

“I would say listen to what I actually say when I have an opportunity to say it in something other than a one-minute sound bite. That’s a format that I have to grow accustomed [to]; that’s not the world that I live in,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. “The time will come down to where I will be able to address that appropriately.”

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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