Carly Fiorina Had Some Interesting Thoughts When Asked If She Would Run for Office This Week

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I have been a major proponent of Carly Fiorina running a primary campaign against Donald Trump for the 2020 GOP Nomination.  I believe she has the most credibility, has the best chance of uniting Moderates, Mainstream Conservatives, and Anti-Establishment types, and has the most to gain from a Trump challenge.  What has been difficult to gauge has been if she would have interest in a run.  As I wrote last month:

At the same time, some of her recent moves seem to be moves that someone looking to keep the option of a Presidential run alive might make.  Just as many political candidates do when running for President, she has a new book coming out in April on the topic of leadership.  She also has retained staff for her personal ventures and foundation that are veterans of her 2016 Presidential campaign, or who have political experience elsewhere.  Finally, while she hasn’t popped up on Fox News Primetime, she has nonetheless done some cable TV appearances, including on Fox News where one would expect a Republican candidate for President to try and attract eyeballs.  These could simply be the moves of any public figure looking to maintain a brand, but an optimistic observer could also see them as the moves of someone at least interested in a run for office.

This week, in an episode of her podcast, Carly was asked directly what future political aspirations she might have.  It’s important to caveat that the question was general, and didn’t mention the Presidency or 2020, but it still gives us insight into whether Fiorina would consider a 2020 run.  The question starts around the 26:30 mark:

Host: What is your political future, will you run for office again?

Fiorina: Well, the short answer, and then I’ll explain, is I don’t know. And the reason my answer is I don’t know, is because that’s the way I’ve always lived my life. If you think about what I said on how I entered the Presidential race last time around, I didn’t have a plan, I didn’t have a plan to become a CEO. The way I’ve lived my life is to be true to those disciplines and behaviors that I think define leadership and problem solving that we talked about.  Courage and character and the humility and empathy to collaborate with others and imagination to see the possibilities in front of us, and particularly the possibilities in other people.  I try to live my life that way every day, and I’ve learned over time that if I will focus on those things, solve the problems in front of me, that opportunities will knock, and then I’ll make the right choice when the opportunity is in front of me.  And so, that’s how I’m going to continue to live my life.  You know, I had a, not to get too heavy here, but when I battled cancer; Most of my young adult life, I was afraid of dying, and you’ll read about that in “Find Your Way”.  I don’t know exactly why, perhaps because both of my parents lost their parents at a young age, but I was always afraid of dying.  And when I was diagnosed with cancer, of course, all of a sudden, now the threat of death is near and present.  And what I learned going through that is that life isn’t measured in time, life isn’t measured in title or wealth or fame, all though those things can be very important.  Life is measured in love, in moments of grace, and in positive contribution.  And so those are the things that I hope I have in my life every single day, and when opportunity knocks along the way, I usually have the courage to walk through the door.

The entire episode is interesting, but it at least shows that (a) there are a number of people who are interested in the question of if Fiorina will run for office again, and (b) that she hasn’t closed the door to the possibility.  Hopefully she will seriously consider the possibility of seeking the Republican Presidential Nomination in 2020.

Carly Fiorina is the Right Answer to the Trump Primary Question

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Late last week, Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld announced the formation of an exploratory committee to consider challenging Donald Trump in a Republican Primary.  There is some evidence that there is a block of Republican primary voters who might be interested in a Trump alternative.  There is no evidence Bill Weld is the alternative they are looking for.

Nationally, a recent ABC News poll says 32% of Republicans nationally want a nominee other than Trump.  In Iowa, per a CNN/Des Moines Register poll in December, 29% of Republicans would either definitely vote for or consider a Trump alternative, while 63% say they would welcome a contested primary.  Additionally, in New Hampshire, an NHJournal poll has Mitt Romney already pulling 24% against Trump if they went head-to-head.  While it would be difficult, it is plausible that the right candidate could be competitive in a primary and, at a minimum, chart a course for what the GOP should be post-Trump.

There are several candidates who have shown interest in a run, and Weld has officially announced, but it’s unlikely any of them will be able to compete with President Trump.  Bill Weld, Larry Hogan, and John Kasich among others are to the left of the Republican Party as a whole, and are unlikely to unite all of its disparate elements.  Carly Fiorina is one of the few people who would be able to launch a credible challenge to President Trump from the Right and for whom it would make sense to launch a campaign.

First, Fiorina has a positive message she can run on to balance concerns she has about Trump.  In her 2016 campaign and her outside speeches and foundation, she consistently advocated for good leadership focused on creating opportunities for people and unlocking their potential.  That’s a compelling vision of governance that rivals anything seen from any Presidential candidate of either party since President Obama’s 2008 campaign.  Bill Weld doesn’t have a compelling message he can run on.  At the same time, Fiorina has shown a willingness to criticize Trump on issues she finds important and has unique authority to speak on, including Trump’s “horseface” comments and his attacks on the Federal Reserve.  She is in a better position than any potential 2020 candidate to balance a positive vision and platform with criticism of President Trump.

One problem that results from many potential challengers not having a compelling positive message is that when they have to provide a platform, they are tacking from the left.  For example, John Kasich’s main identity as a political figure at this point is being anti-Trump.  Because of this, he has taken up a number of positions, from opposing pro-life legislation to speaking out for gun control, that not only oppose Trump, but oppose the Republican Party platform that predates Trump.  John Kasich, Larry Hogan, and Bill Weld would all be presenting primary challenges from the left, which the Republican Party has no appetite for.

Carly Fiorina would be able to present a credible challenge to President Trump from the right.  She is pro-life, against Common Core, and anti-ACA.  Additionally, she is a political outsider who negates the President’s argument that we need a businessperson and not a politician as President.  Fiorina’s ability to credibly run against the President while running alongside the Republican Party as a whole gives her more plausible paths to victory, while opening up the ability to attack the President for failing to implement Conservative reforms such as defunding Planned Parenthood and repealing Obamacare.

While Fiorina is a Conservative outsider, though, she is capable of appealing to different elements of the Party that few others can.  As David Byler mentions in his recent, excellent Washington Post article, President Trump won the Republican nomination in 2016 with a minority.  A candidate who can unite Rubio, Cruz, Carson, and Kasich voters can present a serious challenge to Trump.  Throughout the 2016 campaign, Fiorina was generally well-liked within all elements of the Republican Party.  She is a Conservative who has credibility with the Right and yet is viewed as a serious person by the more Centrist, Suburban parts of the Party as well.  Bill Weld or any other challenger from the left is not going to win over voters who, in 2016, voted for Cruz, Carson, or Rubio.  Fiorina possesses Name ID and starts with credibility among all groups that would be harder to deflate than a candidate without national Name ID or who ran against the Right.

Because of all of these factors, I believe that Carly Fiorina is the candidate with the highest probability of success if she ran against Trump in a primary.  Furthermore, Carly Fiorina’s best option if she wants to be involved in politics going forward would be to run against Trump.  Being President is a difficult job, and not all political figures want the responsibility.  Because Fiorina has run for the office before and has a compelling message she would like to draw attention for, though, we can presume she would desire to be President.  For many Republican figures who are interested in the Presidency, such as Nicki Haley, Marco Rubio, or Ted Cruz, the best path may be to wait until 2024 or 2028.

Unlike them, this is probably not true for Fiorina.  When she was running in a primary against more conventional Republicans in 2016, she faded into the background and tended to be a 2nd or 3rd choice for a significant number of voters who nonetheless preferred her over Trump.  She would be at risk of this same problem occurring in a future election if she chose to run.  If Fiorina ran in 2020, she would have a chance to win among these voters who are more inclined towards conventional Republicans, while also negating Trump’s strengths and competing in the “outsider” lane.  This makes her unique among Republicans with national ambitions in that electorally, her time to run may be now.

Compared to figures such as John Kasich and Larry Hogan, there is little buzz that Fiorina is looking to run for President.  At the same time, some of her recent moves seem to be moves that someone looking to keep the option of a Presidential run alive might make.  Just as many political candidates do when running for President, she has a new book coming out in April on the topic of leadership.  She also has retained staff for her personal ventures and foundation that are veterans of her 2016 Presidential campaign, or who have political experience elsewhere.  Finally, while she hasn’t popped up on Fox News Primetime, she has nonetheless done some cable TV appearances, including on Fox News where one would expect a Republican candidate for President to try and attract eyeballs.  These could simply be the moves of any public figure looking to maintain a brand, but an optimistic observer could also see them as the moves of someone at least interested in a run for office.

A Republican campaign against Donald Trump will be an uphill battle.  Someone with the right background, though, could run to seriously threaten or defeat the President while also charting a course for the Republican Party into the future.  Bill Weld is not up to the task, and neither are any candidates who would have little to offer other than a token challenge to Trump from the left.  It is Carly Fiorina’s time if she wants to run.  Fiorina only has to decide if it is a challenge she has interest in pursuing.  Her career arc from Secretary to CEO shows she is up for a challenge, and Republicans with reservations concerning the President should hope she is up for one more.

Bill Weld is the Wrong Answer to the Trump Primary Question

I’ve written before on why there should be a Republican Primary opponent to Trump in 2020.  He is unstable, the most likely candidate to lose, and morally unfit for office.  That said, we need a serious person to challenge him.  In my 4-part series on a 2020 Republican Primary earlier this year, I talked some about the selfish incentives a candidate might have to challenge Trump that go against the ultimate cause:

On the individual level, though, there are a number of other definitions of success that may not have anything to do with electoral success.  For example, a candidate may run in order to try and push a particular issue or issue-set into the conversation (Example: Ron Paul 2008 and 2012).  More perversely, a candidate may run in order to generate attention that can monetized as a book deal, a TV contract, or through some other means.  Finally, there are some candidacies that are just completely inexplicable (Jim Gilmore, George Pataki, etc).  All of these are individual definitions of success that often directly contradict with the broader voter group’s definition of success.

Bill Weld, who is reportedly fixing to announce an exploratory committee to look at a Trump challenge, is the case of someone who has no good reason to run other than being an attention-seeker.  He was a mediocre Governor for 6 forgettable years in the 90s who hasn’t been heard from since other than being Gary Johnson’s running mate in 2016.  How is that someone who can defeat Trump or who has any business being President?

I doubt Weld will scare a serious person out of the field.  My biggest worry is that he will make the concept of a Trump challenge look like a joke, thus leading people to dismiss the idea of a challenge out of hand.  We need a serious person with competent experience and an actual vision beyond self-promotion to get in.  Hopefully that will be someone off this list.  The best choice, though, is someone who will run from the Right, unite Rubio/Cruz/Carson voters, and be able to fundraise.  The best possible answer who would also have other incentives to run?

Carly Fiorina

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Analyzing a 2020 Republican Primary, Part 4

This is the last part of my series on the 2020 Republican Primary.  In Part 1, I looked at where things stand right now as far as prospects for a contested primary are concerned.  In Part 2, I looked at what an ideal candidate would look like to have the best chance of success.  In Part 3, I examined which individuals would have the incentives to make a run against Trump.  Here, I am going to look at 15 individuals, in alphabetical order, who may due to some combination of the points I made prior may warrant a look.

Let me go ahead and make one broad statement about this list: With very few exceptions (and noted where made), these candidates all fit three of the criteria I mentioned in my last post about incentives to run.  Basically all of them have expressed displeasure with the President at some point on some issue. Almost all of them have no pending reelections, no higher offices they are likely to seek, and would not be better served by waiting for another election cycle if they decide they are interested in the Presidency.  Because of that, some of these names are not stars, but they are the candidates who it would actually make sense for right now to consider running.  If Trump’s numbers fall further for one reason or another, the incentives may shift for higher-caliber candidates to consider a run.

Congressman Justin Amash (MI)

Why – Justin Amash is about as “Anti-Swamp” as anyone in the United States Congress.  He consistently rails against both parties, and is often on the fringe minority of votes.  He is probably the Republican member of Congress most willing to criticize Trump as well, and has made it clear he is not a fan.  Finally, while he’s not the person to want to climb the political ladder for the sake of it, he doesn’t have many other options at this point to advance.  He has slim chances of winning statewide office in Michigan, and his willingness to rail and vote against his party gives him no chance of advancing in House Leadership or Committee Status.  If he wants to make as big a mark as possible on the national dialogue, this might be his best chance.

Why Not – While Name ID isn’t everything, Amash’s may be too low to even attract earned media and give him a chance to grow recognition.  Additionally, his more Libertarian views may place him outside the party mainstream that, if anything, is shifting towards a larger role of government.  While he may attract small-dollar donors from the same people who Ron Paul enthused in his Presidential runs, his ability to fundraise enough to seriously compete is in question.

Former US Senator Kelly Ayotte (NH)

Why – Ayotte was your fairly typical Republican US Senator during her six years in office, and she has good relationships with mainstream Republicans as well as the infrastructure on the Right.  She is from New Hampshire, and would have an excellent chance of beating Trump there and possible generating early momentum.  She opposed Trump following the Access Hollywood tapes, and has spoken out against him before and after the Election.  She probably would have won reelection with Rubio or another candidate on the top of the ballot, so this would be the ultimate revenge.  Finally, while she could run for US Senate again or possible Governor in the future, this could very well be her best chance of going further.

Why Not – Much like Amash, her Name ID is very low nationally, and it would take a lot of earned media and dollars to fix that.  Additionally, it’s unknown if she has any desire to be President or to slog through a Presidential campaign with unknown odds of success.

Former Governor Jeb Bush (FL)

Why – He has ran before, so he’s obviously interested in being President.  He very clearly dislikes Trump, brings instant Name ID, and can raise serious dough.  Finally, as long a shot as it would be, it’s doubtful he would do any better in a crowded Republican field in 2024 or 2028 than he would 1:1 with Trump.

Why Not – While his stock is probably higher than it was in 2016, the Republican base is still very anti-Establishment.  Perception is reality, and the perception is he is moderate and too insider.  While boring competency might get him some more votes, it’s probably not enough to be competitive.

Former Governor Chris Christie (NJ)

Why – He wants to be President, he’s mad at Trump, and he won’t do any better another year.

Why Not – He’s probably more moderate than anyone on this list not named Kasich.  Additionally, it would be difficult for him to lay out a vision for running beyond “I want to be President”, and that doesn’t sale.

Former US Senator Bob Corker (TN)

Why – He has expressed openness to running and has serious Foreign Policy credentials.  He has shown willingness to clash with Trump, and he’s probably never going to get a better opportunity.

Why Not – He’s viewed as too DC/Establishment from his 12 years in the Senate, and it’s hard to say if he would be able to separate himself from that perception.

Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina (VA)

Why – Carly Fiorina, in my opinion, is currently the most complete candidate on this list to challenge Trump.  She is a strong Conservative who isn’t going to be able to be labeled a RINO.  She is an anti-politician like Trump and can run on a drain the swamp message.  She has ran for President before and has Name ID from it.  Finally, she has high favorables among Rubio/Cruz/Carson voters, but would probably still struggle to stand out in a crowded field in the future.

Why Not – The main reason she should not run would be if she just no longer desires to be President or to go through another campaign. Other than that, she should run.

Former UN Ambassador Nicki Haley (SC)

Why – I mostly put Haley here because people keep bringing her name up.  She is a Conservative who is not the Establishment.  She does seem to have national ambitions, and is probably connected enough to be a serious fundraiser.  She also starts with substantive Name ID and might attract almost Trump-like Earned Media.  Finally, she has credibility with Trump’s base and could possibly peel off support there.

Why Not – I just don’t see how her individual incentives line up to make a 2020 run prudent.  She’s shown minor concerns with Trump decisions, but she doesn’t appear to be nearly as concerned with another Trump term as the other people on this list.  Perhaps most importantly, she’s one of a very select group of people who you could easily see being a serious contender in a future Election if she holds her fire.  Running in 2020 puts all of that at risk.

Former Governor Bill Haslam (TN)

Why – He’s from outside DC and could define himself as a problem-solver who got things done as Governor and left office with very strong favorables.  He’s not going to stand out in a future election cycle.  He probably has the most money to play with of anyone in this list, possibly including Mitt Romney.  He chaired RGA two different election cycles as well, and could probably fundraise off that too.

Why Not – His Name ID is very low nationally, and it’s doubtful he has a desire for the job or campaign that comes with it.  Most importantly, with Lamar Alexander’s retirement, he has a US Senate seat he could very well clear the field for if he wants it.  It would be tough to justify a low-probability Presidential bid with that option on the table.

Governor Gary Herbert (UT)

Why – His profile is similar to Haslam’s.  He has a track record of getting things done outside DC, and has one of the highest approval ratings in the County.  He has contrasted with Trump on some issues, and if he has any interest in the idea of being President, this is his best chance.

Why Not – Also like Haslam, his Name ID is very low, and he’s not known to be interested in the job.  While he doesn’t have an immediate Senate race on the table, he could be a potential US Senate candidate or Republican cabinet pick in the future if he sits out.

Governor Larry Hogan (MD)

Why – Hogan has shown the most interest of anyone recently in the idea of challenging Trump.  He could run as a DC outsider, and he has already started contrasting his record with the partisanship in Washington.  He’s term-limited out of office in 2022, and he’s never going to get a better chance to run than now.

Why Not – His Name ID is very low.  Most importantly, though, he has an extremely Moderate record on Abortion, Gun Rights, and other issues important to the Republican base.  He might be to the left of John Kasich, which is saying something.  He might be one of the most willing candidates to run, but I think he has one of the worst chances of success of anyone on this list.

Former Governor John Kasich (OH)

Why – He wants to be President and doesn’t like Trump.

Why Not – He has antagonized the Republican base at every opportunity, and there is no appetite among voters for what he is offering.  He is disliked by almost every segment of the party for one reason or another.

Former Congresswoman Mia Love (UT)

Why – Conservatives like her for her willingness to speak out as one of the few African-American elected officials who are GOP.  She’s spoken out against Trump as well, though.  Additionally, Trump probably cost her election (that seat is probably a lot less competitive under President Rubio).  Like Ayotte, there’s something of a revenge factor.

Why Not – Even though she lost, she may still have a future in elected office.  Would she really want to put that on the line with a long-shot Presidential run?

Former Governor Susana Martinez (NM)

Why – She’s one of the original, 2010 Tea Party class and has credibility with the Right.  She’s now out of office and probably wouldn’t get a better chance if this is something she’s interested in.  Additionally, New Mexico is about as far from DC as you can get, so it’s hard to peg her as “The Swamp.”

Why Not – Low Name ID and no known desire to run.

US Senator Mitt Romney (UT)

Why – He has as much Name ID as anyone on this list, and clearly (at least at one point) has a desire to be President.  He can probably fundraise more money than anyone on this list, as well as self-fund.  He doesn’t care for Trump, and at his age, there’s probably no better time to run than now.

Why Not – Conservatives are still suspicious of him and whether he is too moderate.  Additionally, two presidential campaigns takes a toll, and he may very well have no interest in a third.

US Senator Ben Sasse (NE)

Why – Last on this last, Sasse is well-liked by a lot of the higher-up Conservative institutions.  His Name ID is decent due to his frequent Trump criticism.  While he contrasts with Trump, it’s hard to see him standing out among a crowded field of “normal” Republicans in the near future, but …

Why Not – That being said, he’s young and I’m not as confident he wouldn’t get another chance several cycles down the road.  His desire to run is suspect, and he’s perceived by some as Establishment (even though nothing could be further from the truth).  Finally, his Senate seat is up in 2020, and if he wants to keep it (which is uncertain at this point), a Presidential run would very much imperial that.