Fiorina’s Using Up Somebody’s Opportunity

The one thing you can be sure of in Republican coverage of all the Republican presidential cattle calls is that Carly Fiorina is going to get a big thumbs-up, pretty much no matter what she says or does. It’s no secret that the main reason for this phenomenon is twofold: (a) she’s not in any way a threat to win the nomination, since her career has been punctuated by failure in her peak business (CEO of HP, where she was fired) and political (a ten-point loss in a Senate campaign in the best Republican year since Bob Taft was the party leader) experiences, and (b) she’s a woman, and therefore can spend the entire nominating process bashing Hillary Clinton without the kind of backlash men often generate. I’m sure she has some virtues; she had to be pretty exceptional to get the HP gig, and she did have to win a Republican primary in 2010, and she strikes me as a reasonably, if not dazzlingly, effective speaker. She’s also a cancer survivor.

But there’s also zero question that if she were not a woman, or if the putative Democratic nominee were not a woman, Fiorina would be getting less attention on the campaign trail than George Pataki. He, after all, has won a few elections.

So if being a woman who doesn’t actually threaten anyone else guarantees Fiorina the easiest ride of any candidate, and all kinds of flattering press–not to mention an engraved invitation to the next Republican president’s cabinet–you kind of wonder why one of the thirty or forty Republican women in Congress or in statehouses who are clearly more qualified for the presidency than she is didn’t make the run. No, they wouldn’t win, either, but again, that’s part of the guarantee that they’d have a very good time running, and would elevate themselves above all their GOP peers among women and many of the men as well.

And a House member or (even better) a governor might well take care of a problem that Jonathan Bernstein has pointed out with respect to Fiorina: if, as is obviously the case, Republicans want her to be on platform at all the debates, interrupting the maleness of them all and whalin’ away at Hillary, then she could really use the kind of polling numbers that would enable the RNC to rule her in while ruling out a lot of candidates (e.g., the aforementioned George Pataki) they really don’t want cluttering the events.

So the more you look at Carly, the more it looks like she’s using up somebody else’s golden opportunity in this cycle–that of a woman who might aspire not only to a Cabinet post, but a top Cabinet post, or maybe even a spot on the ticket or a viable future presidential race.

UPDATE: Per commenter Square1inny’s claim that I have an “obsession with Fiorina’s candidacy [that] is now reaching Maureen Dowd-like levels of armchair psychoanalysis,” I write 10-12 posts a day, 50-60 a week, 200-240 a month. I believe I’ve done a grand total of four posts on Fiorina’s proto-presidential campaign dating back to last fall. If that’s an “obsession,” then I have lots of them. As for my “insinuation” that her campaign is all about HRC, I obviously cannot peer into her soul, but the coverage of her speeches is about 98% about her attacks on Hillary, so it’s what her campaign has become about, whether or not she intended it to be so.

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.