The Designated Hillary-Slapper

When Carly Fiorina’s name first got circulated as a potential 2016 president candidate, I was more than a little puzzled, given her dubious record as a business executive and her dismal performance in her one run for political office. I did figure GOPers would welcome her to the field because it was unseemly to have no women running the year Democrats will likely nominate Hillary Clinton.

But now that she’s spoken at CPAC (her position as a board member of the sponsoring organization, the American Conservative Union, scored her a prime first-day speaking slot), her role in the campaign is a lot clearer: she gets to hammer Clinton day in and day out without risking the Lazio Problem: the phenomenon (named after her 2000 Senate opponent Rick Lazio) of voters, particularly women, not particularly liking it when a bunch of white men beat up on a very accomplished woman. Fiorina’s presence guarantees there’s no gathering of candidates without a good, uninhibited attack on HRC–including the gathering today (per a report from Bloomberg Politics‘ Ben Brody:)

Potential Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina took on Hillary Clinton in her speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, questioning the former secretary of state’s record and launching an apparent attack on contributions that her family’s foundation received from foreign governments.

“Mrs. Clinton, please name an accomplishment,” Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO and Senate candidate, said. “And in the meantime, please explain why we should accept that the millions and millions of dollars that have flowed into the Clinton Global Initiative from foreign governments does not represent a conflict of interest.”

She also hit the presumed frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic nomination on her record on women’s right, the Benghazi attacks, and her approach to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I have met Vladimir Putin, and I know that his ambition will not be deterred by a gimmicky red reset button,” she said.

The mentions of Clinton prompted boos from the audience and applause for Fiorina.

Of course it did.

Now one thing I said back in September that I haven’t changed my mind on at all is this: the relative effectiveness of Fiorina in bashing Clinton day in and day out will help Republicans figure out if it’s a good idea to nominate a woman for Vice President this time around. And who knows? If she’s really effective, Fiorina could even get her own name on the veep list, though more likely they’ll go with someone a bit more successful, like Gov. Susana Martinez or Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers or (shudder) Sen. Joni Ernst.

If Carly does well, though, she’s almost certainly in line for a decent cabinet post or a prime ambassadorship, and every time she lands a blow against HRC, she probably scores another corporate board appointment if she stays in the private sector. But she won’t impress me unless she makes one whole speech without mentioning Clinton.

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.