Has It Come To Carly?

If you want an early indicator of the quality problems with the likely 2016 Republican presidential field, there’s another example today that transcends the peculiarity of the Mitt boom. At National Journal, Emily Schultheis has a column speculating about a 2016 campaign by Carly Fiorina.

Now it’s true Schultheis’ hypothesis is that there should be at least one woman in the GOP field (an opinion probably not shared widely among GOP elites), and Fiorina is the only woman out there now making presidential noises and visiting primary states. I’m also sure Fiorina has personal virtues that I might not be that aware of; she is, for example, a cancer survivor.

But the brutal truth is that from a public point of view Carly Fiorina’s fame is defined by a pioneering but ultimately failed business career that ended with her firing in 2005 as CEO of HP, and then a single political contest, for the U.S. Senate in 2010, in which she lost by ten points in the best Republican year since about 1946. Her resume, which includes lots of fundraising work for her party and a lot of those “how to reach out to women” lectures that serve as a substitute for a substantive Republican agenda (it’s telling that one of the witnesses for Fiorina’s awesomeness in Schultheis’ piece is the consultant Kellyanne Conway, who’s made a whole career out of this sort of thing), is of a level that might get her mentioned for a minor Cabinet post in a future Republican administration, or maybe a mid-range ambassadorship. Presumably, when the 2016 Republican nominee emerges, Carly could even find herself mentioned on a Veep list, depending on how poorly the party is doing with women at that point. After all, she checks a lot of boxes, and hasn’t offended any major conservative interest groups (unlike those other prominent California Republican women, Condi Rice and eMeg Whitman, Fiorina is anti-choice); the tens of thousands of HP employees laid off during her tenure there aren’t big players in GOP politics.

In any event, it will represent a distress sign for Republicans if Fiorina starts getting mentioned a lot. If, of course, John Bolton and Ben Carson are considered “viable,” all bets may be off.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.