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Fiorina Is Undeterred By Dropping Poll Numbers


Let's catch up with one of the Republican presidential candidates. Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, has had a bit of a wild ride so far. She went from barely a blip in the polls, to a surprise surge, to this moment. She's been dropped from tonight's main GOP debate stage and placed on the undercard with Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Rand Paul - although there is word Paul might not participate because of the demotion. We caught up with Fiorina on the campaign trail in Des Moines, Iowa. She is certainly feeling the chill of a different kind.

CARLY FIORINA: It is a little cold this time of year - like, minus three.

GREENE: Minus three Fahrenheit - great.

FIORINA: Uh-huh.

GREENE: Well, I can't wait to get out there. I'll be joining you around caucus time.

FIORINA: Well, there you go.

GREENE: So we'll all be shivering together. Let me ask you this. I want to know if you understand the decision to remove you from the main stage in this debate.

FIORINA: Well, analytically, I don't think it's defensible.


FIORINA: I mean, the polls are not this precise. I think this is what happens when the RNC outsources decision-making to the media and the media decides they want to show. But I'm going to talk to the American people every chance I get. And I'll talk to them about why we have to take our country back, and why I am the best candidate to beat Hillary Clinton and to lead this nation in these difficult times.

GREENE: Are you worried, though, that being sort of on the second stage labels you as a second-tier candidate and makes things much, much more difficult?

FIORINA: Oh, I think I've been underestimated all along. I mean, I started out 17 out of 16 candidates. Literally, the polling companies wouldn't even ask my name because 97 percent of Republican primary voters had never heard of me. And now according to Fox News's own poll, I am sixth nationally.

GREENE: Well, as you look at the reality of today where you're sitting - the poll numbers you see and sort of the debate stage you'll be on - what do you see as your best path to victory here?

FIORINA: I mean, look, one of the things that I see, one of the things that I talk about every time I'm on the ground is our politics, our government, our future, our country has sort of been hijacked by a political class of both parties, by an establishment in the media that plays along. People want to take their country back. That's why I'm running. We were intended to be a citizen government. And we are a very long way from that.

GREENE: How do you sort of deal with the question of whether or not to play up the fact that you're a woman in terms of looking for a way to help you stand apart from the other candidates?

FIORINA: Well, you know, it's pretty obvious I'm a woman.

GREENE: (Laughter).

FIORINA: I mean, it's hard to miss. So I think people get that.


FIORINA: And it's also true that I don't play identity politics. Hillary Clinton does. Hillary Clinton will play the gender card, which is why I am the most effective nominee against her - 'cause she can't play that card with me.

GREENE: What's an example of when she's played the gender card?

FIORINA: Oh, she plays it over and over again. How often does she talk to us about the historic nature of her candidacy? Every single time she's on the stump. I don't talk about that. I talk about why I'm the most qualified candidate to win this job and to do this job. Hillary Clinton cannot talk about the historic nature of her candidacy if she faces me. What she's actually going to have to talk about is her track record. She's going to have to talk about her lies to the American people. She's going to have to talk about the fact that she's gotten every foreign policy challenge wrong. And on that ground, I win.

GREENE: But let's say there were two women who were nominated. Wouldn't that be a historic moment that you'd want to talk about.

FIORINA: Of course it would be a historic moment, and one that we should celebrate. Look, I'm proud to be a woman. But I also have benefited every step of the way in my life from a meritocracy where people judged on merit and results, and that is the way I want the American people to judge me. And that is the way the American people should judge Hillary Clinton.

GREENE: Let me ask you about results - and this also gets to a question I wanted to ask you about, which is running for president as someone who's been in business. I mean, Mitt Romney was really dogged in his last campaign by sort of the label of being a vulture capitalist. And you've had to defend a decision as CEO of Hewlett-Packard to lay off some 30,000 people. Has that made it more difficult to gain support when voters have so many options in this primary?

FIORINA: Actually, no, not at all - just the opposite because, you see, I led Hewlett-Packard during the technology bust. And a lot of companies that voters know went out of business because they didn't make the tough calls - Sun Microsystems, Gateway Computer - used to be right here in Iowa. And yes, I had to make tough calls in tough times and stand up and be held accountable. I saved the company, and that was what I was recruited to do.

GREENE: And I guess that's my question - with so many people who have been through hard times and been out of jobs, you know, is it difficult for you to make that argument when you have sort of this lay-off on your record hanging there.

FIORINA: Well, David, you clearly think it is, but actually it's not. Here on the ground, people respect the fact that I understand what it takes to save a job. And we saved 80,000 of them. And we went on to create another 80,000. People respect that.

GREENE: I want to finish, if I may, by asking about the current front-runner in the Republican race, Donald Trump. And, you know, he is - if you look at his business record, he has had, you know, a number of bankruptcies. People have complained about the way he does business. How do you think he's overcome that record so far?

FIORINA: Well, look, I think Donald Trump is the Kim Kardashian of politics.


FIORINA: He's famous for being famous. He's a celebrity. He also is not a leader. He hasn't presented a single plan to solve a single problem. Give Donald Trump credit - he is a great promoter of himself. But I do not think he will be the nominee of our party, and he cannot beat Hillary Clinton.

GREENE: If he is the nominee from your party, would you pledge to support him?

FIORINA: I don't think he will be, and I don't answer hypothetical questions.

GREENE: Fair enough. Carly Fiorina, talking to us from Iowa where she is campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us.

FIORINA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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