On the outside chance that non-conservative women are looking at Carly Fiorina as an attractive option for 2016, Andrea Flynn deconstructs her positions at TNR and discovers the same-old same-old hostility to reproductive rights and government assistance to families that earned the GOP its “war on women” label to begin with. So Flynn calls Fiorina a Trojan Horse candidate.

But I think Flyann may be overestimating Fiorina’s function in this campaign, which is defensive rather than offensive (except in the second, non-strategic meaning of that term!). She does not have to be “pro-women” or rack up support among non-conservative women; she simply needs to be anti-anti-women: policing the rest of the field to curb any egregious pigginess–especially from unwelcome-to-the-establishment candidates like Donald Trump–even as she spends most of her time waling away at Hillary Clinton in the uninhibited manner not allowed to old white men who could be reenacting abusive treatment of their wives and secretaries from back in the day.

Aside from her active role in campaign ’16, Fiorina adds symbolic value via her mere presence on every candidate stage or venue. What do you mean Republicans are anti-women: look at how much we all love Carly! Michele Bachmann served the same function to some extent in 2012, but she was so obviously a deranged extremist that it was hard to think of her as reassuring. By contrast, Fiorina can go pretty far out there (e.g., favoring a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood) and still fall well onto the sane side of the Bachmann Line.

Will Fiorina receive the ultimate reward for this service, the second spot on the ticket? That depends on how well she does as the Invisible Primary becomes visible, and how much the MSM buys into the dubious idea that her shaky business career really does qualify her to be a heartbeat from the presidency. If it comes to that, of course, she will again benefit from the most obvious precedent, Sarah Palin. All in all, her once inscrutable decision to run for president is looking smarter every day.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.