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In Return Swing Through N.H., Fiorina Attracts Bigger Crowds and Greater Scrutiny

Emily Corwin for NHPR
Carly Fiorina is trailed by reporters on her tour of Rapid Sheet Metal in Nashua, NH.

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina has spent much of past few months criss-crossing New Hampshire. Nowadays, those campaign stops are attracting a lot more attention then they used to.

A couple months ago, it wasn’t unusual for there to be just a single reporter at Fiorina’s events. That was the case in Wentworth, mid-August, after the first GOP debate – she had been in the so-called  “happy-hour” debate for lower tier candidates. That day in Wentworth, the guy introducing Fiorina, Tom Thomson -- he didn’t even get her name right.  

"Carly Finorino - I think she just knocked it out of the park."

Six weeks later at a Rotary Club lunch in Manchester Monday afternoon, there were 13 TV cameras and three radio reporters with red lights blinking.

The Rotarian introducing Fiorina, and the folks who came to watch, certainly knew her name. Fiorina’s momentum may have started with that first debate, but it was the second one – where she was on the prime time stage -- that most people learned her name.

"I didn’t know about her until the first debate and then the second debate she did really well..."

"She did great in that second debate – she did phenomenal..."

"Really I think it was after the debates, there was a buzz…"

And after months on the campaign trail, Fiorina’s speeches are more polished, and her demeanor ever more assured.

Fiorina: "Remember when we learned to our horror that veterans had died before they ever received an appointment?"

But with the spotlight, comes the scrutiny. After the debate, liberal critics pointed out that one of Fiorina’s most impassioned statements misrepresented a scene fabricated from stock footage in a Planned Parenthood video. Fiorina continues to defend her remarks.

At a house party in Bedford yesterday, Bill Handy recalled the moment during that debate.

"There was a piece on partial birth abortion, it just came across very heartfelt, whether you agreed with her or not it felt like it was a sincere authentic emotion of hers," Handy said.

Handy said having heard the video was a fabrication, he isn’t sure what to make of her credibility.

"It still came across as authentic," he said. "Was it? I dunno; that’s why we’re here trying to source out; who’s the best candidate."

Or, as Dani Sellers put it at the Rotary club, she likes Fiorina a lot. But when it comes to her statements about Planned Parenthood:

"I just want to make sure we all have all the facts before we say, 'Away with Planned Parenthood.' "

Of course, not everyone’s watching the GOP debates or reading the wonky blogs that picked the debates apart after. And for those folks, Carly Fiorina is still just as unfamiliar today as she was a year ago.

At the Rapid Sheet Metal plant in Nashua earlier that day, Fiorina walked across the factory floor,  past workers and machines, swarmed by TV crews. Employee James Fabiano looked on.

He confessed to not knowing who Fiorina was or why she was in the factory. Moments later, Fiorina was shaking his hand.

"So, ignore the microphones in your face and tell me what you’re doing, if you don’t mind," she told Fabiano.

Fiorina moved on, and at first, Fabiano still didn’t seem to know he had just met a candidate for president. Obviously, now he knows. And that makes him  just one more of thousands of Americans who are now paying Carly Fiorina some attention.

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