Fio­r­ina 2016 strat­egy: Stay in race long enough to shake it up

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

Carly Fio­r­ina is pre­par­ing to chal­lenge con­ven­tional cam­paign wis­dom that says the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee must place in the top three in Iowa’s first-in-the-na­tion cau­cuses, in­stead pre­par­ing a longer but les­s­ex­pen­sive cam­paign strat­egy.

Stephen DeMaura, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Carly for Amer­ica su­per po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee, said Mrs. Fio­r­ina — who is poised to be the lone woman in the field, a busi­ness leader and a Wash­ing­ton out­sider — can ap­peal to var­i­ous fac­tions of the Repub­li­can Party, giv­ing her a chance to hang in the race long enough to shake it up.

Mr. DeMaura is also plan­ning on a lower-cost strat­egy, say­ing his su­per PAC needs to raise be­tween $5 mil­lion and $10 mil­lion to pose a cred­i­ble threat in the early pri­mary states, which is only a small frac­tion of the amount other cam­paigns are con­tem­plat­ing rais­ing.

“I don’t think any­one ex­pects her to win the early states, Mr. DeMaura said. “We will com­pete hard for votes there, but by the time the early states vote, she will have in­tro­duced her­self to vot­ers through de­bates, cam­paign­ing and the me­dia. The field will nar­row, and [then] we will be able to com­pete with some of the more es­tab­lished can­di­dates.”

Mrs. Fio­r­ina has said that there is a “higher than 90 per­cent” chance she’ll run, and likely make an an­nounce­ment in late April or early May.

Po­lit­i­cal ob­servers say the 60-yearold busi­ness­woman faces an up­hill battle, point­ing out that she has never held po­lit­i­cal of­fice and is not well known among pri­mary vot­ers.

They also say that while she is smart and comes across well on tele­vi­sion, it re­mains to be seen whether her failed 2010 bid to un­seat Sen. Bar­bara Boxer, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, earned her the sort of re­tail skills that are needed to com­pete for vot­ers on the ground in Iowa and New Hamp­shire.

Mrs. Fio­r­ina will also have to grap­ple with the feel­ing among many Repub­li­can op­er­a­tives that she is au­di­tion­ing for vice pres­i­dent or a Cabi­net po­si­tion in the next Repub­li­can ad­min­is­tra­tion. Her al­lies say she is open to the idea of vice pres­i­dent.

She has yet to gain much trac­tion. A na­tion­wide Fox News poll re­leased late last month showed that she re­ceived sup­port from 1 per­cent of likely Repub­li­can vot­ers, ty­ing her with Gov. John Ka­sich of Ohio and for­mer Gov. Ge­orge Pataki of New York.

She’ll need to do far bet­ter than that to reach the thresh­old for even get­ting into the de­bates sanc­tioned by the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee, but if she can get there, those de­bates of­fer her a plat­form to move up.

“The most im­por­tant thing that they have to worry about is they need to get her on the de­bate stage, be­cause when she is on the de­bate stage, she will be sur­rounded by men,” said Craig Robin­son, a for­mer GOP op­er­a­tive who runs The Iowa Repub­li­can web­site. “That will get her the most in the long run. She needs to get on the stage.”

Mr. Robin­son said that Mrs. Fio­r­ina could ben­e­fit from hav­ing lower ex­pec­ta­tions then some of the other can­di­dates, mean­ing she could sur­vive a poor show­ing in Iowa and New Hamp­shire, where can­di­dates such as Sens. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, Gov. Scott Walker of Wis­con­sin and the last two cau­cus win­ners — for­mer Penn­syl­va­nia Sen. Rick San­to­rum and for­mer Arkansas Gov. Mike Huck­abee — will prob­a­bly need strong early show­ings.

“Can­di­dates that don’t have huge ex­pec­ta­tions can kind of play the long game,” he said. “So when the cam­paign moves past Iowa, what if you knock out five or six of th­ese can­di­dates where the ba­sis of their can­di­dacy was they were sup­posed to win Iowa. Then run­ning the hang-around type of strat­egy kind of makes sense to me.”

But Neil Levesque, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the New Hamp­shire In­sti­tute of Pol­i­tics and Po­lit­i­cal Li­brary at St. Anselm Col­lege, sug­gested the idea of hang­ing around, with­out win­ning an early pri­mary or cau­cus state, is a bit far-fetched.

“That’s staff down­grad­ing ex­pec­ta­tions, which is what they are sup­posed to do,” Mr. Levesque said. “I think that some­one who wants to be pres­i­dent needs to win the New Hamp­shire pri­mary. If you can’t win where it is a fair fight, I just don’t see how it ends well.”

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