Carly Fiorina Flourishes at SC Freedom Summit

The South Carolina Freedom Summit allowed Republican presidential candidates and party stalwarts to speak to the base of the party and share the GOP message, and for the candidates, what makes them uniquely qualified.

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to visit beautiful Greenville, SC this past weekend. Along with patronizing some of the great local businesses like Gringos Cantina and The Nomadik Few shaved ice stand, I was able to see some of the speeches in person. Noticeably absent was Rand Paul (who continues to trail only Jeb Bush and Scott Walker in polls), but appearances by Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina made for a great event.

Scott Walker continues to present himself as “the regular guy” who shops at Kohl’s. He very cleverly explains the Laffer Curve by comparing it to how Kohl’s Department Stores make a profit despite generous coupons – which is because lowering their prices increases their volume. It is an easy way for low-information voters to understand an important and often ignored economic concept (one would hope). View below:

Walker is a solid candidate that deserves the positive attention he has gotten, but for me, he comes off as a bit too “regular.” Other candidates come across brilliant without being “elitist.” Rand Paul appeals to intellectual arguments for liberty and is a graduate of Baylor and Duke Medical School. Carly Fiorina was the first female CEO of a Fortune 20 company (HP) and holds a bachelor’s degree from Stanford as well as a Maryland MBA and a MS from MIT. Bobby Jindal was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford before becoming a consultant for McKinsey and eventually being elected the Governor of Louisiana, and Ben Carson is literally a brain surgeon.

Bobby Jindal, who won’t announce his candidacy until after the Louisiana legislature ends session in June, spoke powerfully about religious freedom saying “America didn’t create religious freedom. Religious freedom created America.” He also took exception to President Obama likening violent Islamic extremism to Christianity, jokingly giving the promise that if President Obama will actually fight the Islamic terrorists he’ll “keep an eye out for those medieval Christians from the crusades.” What stood out about Jindal was his humor and relateability. He was arguably the most eloquent speaker, never using the podium and always keeping the audience engaged. I worry his focus on social issues could shift the debate to an area where Republicans are less advantaged than when they speak on expanding liberty, growing the economy, and reducing the debt. Nevertheless, he’ll likely run, because his governorship is coming to a term limit. He articulates problems with Common Core well and is tackling some challenges with the education budget in Louisiana. He’ll have to bring the same eloquence to explaining his plans to revitalize the US economy. If he can generate interest, he’s certainly an excellent candidate.

The final candidate to speak was Carly Fiorina. Far from a career politician, Fiorina worked her way up the ladder at AT&T before being named the CEO of HP. There she led the HP/Compaq merger. Although she was eventually dismissed by the board due to philosophical differences regarding the merger, that experience as CEO of a Fortune 20 company trumps what most candidates bring, and certainly the failed years as Secretary of State that Hillary Clinton brings. As a woman who worked her way up from being a secretary and broke the “glass ceiling,” she holds far more credibility than Hillary Clinton, who got to her position of power by leveraging her marriage with President Bill Clinton when speaking on women’s issues. Fiorina wasn’t shy about highlighting Hillary’s weak credentials either.

Maybe most important about her speech was that she highlighted her own credentials on foreign policy. She lambasted Clinton saying, “I’ve sat across from Putin, alone, and I can tell you that a gimmicky, red, reset button is not going to change his ambitions.” She also was bold in her support for Israel in saying that the first call she would make as President would be to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to assure him that America will return to their traditional role as a strong supporter of Israel. Better yet, her second call would be to the Supreme Leader of Iran to tell him that whatever the situation was before (with the Obama administration) “the situation has changed” and if inspectors do not get full access they would bring absolutely crushing sanctions. Her ability to speak on foreign policy issues with boldness and intelligence greatly improves her appeal.

Carly Fiorina positioned herself as the most appealing candidate, sans Rand Paul, currently in the field. She only just announced her candidacy on May 4th and other potential players like Bobby Jindal, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich so it remains to be seen if she’ll be in contention late. While I support Rand Paul, of the current candidates, she would be my top choice should Rand Paul fade out of contention by the time the late primaries roll around (he is tied for 3rd in recent polls at 11%). Based on her business experience, her surprising foreign policy acumen, and least importantly, her unique position to outfox Hillary Clinton as someone who actually broke through the glass ceiling through education and hard work she should be someone you consider as well.

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