'Fierce Determination' Fueled Fiorina In 2010 Bid, As It Does Now : It's All Politics Carly Fiorina lost out on going to the Senate five years ago but, as a former adviser said, "she gave Barbara Boxer a huge run for her money." Her rise in this year's race is reminiscent of that run.

'Fierce Determination' Fueled Fiorina In 2010 Bid, As It Does Now

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This presidential race is not the first time Carly Fiorina has captivated Republican primary voters. Five years ago, she overpowered two GOP opponents in California's U.S. Senate race before losing to Democrat Barbara Boxer. Capital Public Radio's Ben Adler has this look at Fiorina's only previous run for office.


UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Carly, Carly, Carly...

BEN ADLER, BYLINE: It was five days before the 2010 midterm election. Things weren't looking good for Carly Fiorina. Polls showed her falling further behind Democratic senator Barbara Boxer in California's U.S. Senate race, but you wouldn't know it from watching Fiorina greet voters at a rally outside Sacramento.


CARLY FIORINA: That's right - five days, five days.


FIORINA: How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Good, good.

FIORINA: Thank you so much for coming out. Thank you so much for...

ADLER: She told the crowd how she rose from secretary to CEO of Hewlett-Packard and wasted little time in attacking her opponent.


FIORINA: Barbara Boxer's answer is to spend more, borrow more, bail out more, but we know that doesn't work.

ADLER: Beth Miller was a senior advisor on Fiorina's 2010 campaign.

BETH MILLER: She gave Barbara Boxer a huge run for her money.

ADLER: Miller says even though Fiorina lost by a million votes - 52 percent to 42 percent - it wasn't from lack of skill.

MILLER: We all think of Ronald Reagan as a gifted communicator. And no one is Ronald Reagan, but Carly has this unique ability to be able to connect with people, with voters.

ADLER: You can hear echoes of her attacks on Barbara Boxer when Fiorina goes after Hillary Clinton, as she did in the recent CNN GOP debate.


FIORINA: Mrs. Clinton - if you want to stump a Democrat, ask them to name an accomplishment of Mrs. Clinton.

ADLER: Just before Fiorina took the stage that night, Jon Fleischman caught a quick glimpse of her from the audience.

JON FLEISCHMAN: I saw this kind of fierce determination.

ADLER: Fleischman publishes California's most influential Republican blog, the FlashReport. And that look in Fiorina's eye reminded him of a pivotal moment in her 2010 primary campaign just before her speech to the California Republican Party's convention. She was relatively unknown at the time and knew she had to make a good impression. Fiorina spoke without a script for half an hour, and as Beth Miller recalls...

MILLER: You literally could hear a pin drop.

ADLER: That speech helped propel her to big victory over her two Republican opponents. And then, Fleischman says...

FLEISCHMAN: One of the things that I think I admired about Carly Fiorina is when she won the primary in California for U.S. Senate, she didn't really do that traditional tacking to the middle.

ADLER: Of course, that probably didn't help her in an overwhelmingly blue state like California, and Democrats turned Fiorina's core strength - her business record - into a liability with voters. During a debate, Senator Boxer said Californians must choose whether to reelect her...


BARBARA BOXER: Or if they want to elect someone who made her name as a CEO in Hewlett-Packard laying thousands and thousands of workers off, shipping their jobs overseas, making no sacrifice while she was doing it, taking $100 million.

ADLER: Boxer's campaign manager, Rose Kapolczynski, says that's what Fiorina can look forward to if she survives the Republican presidential primary.

ROSE KAPOLCZYNSKI: Carly Fiorina has a similar record to Mitt Romney on layoffs and outsourcing, but she did them herself. Her entire candidacy is based on her record at HP.

ADLER: Kapolczynski says although Fiorina is a great performer, she often gets defensive when her record is questioned, and even Fiorina's supporters acknowledge she'll have a target on her now that she's rising in Republican primary polls. But, as she told a top campaign aid in 2010, I can take a punch, and I can throw a punch. Just ask Donald Trump. For NPR News, I'm Ben Adler in Sacramento.

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