Fiorina returns to New Hampshire ahead of expected 2016 announcement

Last modified: 5/1/2015 6:03:38 PM
When asked last September, after wrapping up a tour of a local technology company alongside then-Republican gubernatorial nominee Walt Havenstein, whether she might consider another bid for political office, Carly Fiorina was quick to defer attention elsewhere. At that point, she said, she wanted to focus on helping Havenstein and other candidates in their elections.

Still, she added, “I don’t take anything off the table.”

In the seven months since, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO and one-time Republican U.S. Senate candidate for California has returned again and again to New Hampshire – along the way, inching closer and closer toward finalizing plans for a presidential campaign.

Since the midterms last November, Fiorina has been back to the state at least five times, counting this week’s trip, and hired Concord City Republican Committee Chairwoman Kerry Marsh to serve as her state director. She’s been a frequent guest at local and state-level Republican events, most recently at the #FITN Republican Leadership Summit in Nashua earlier this month.

Addressing a roomful of local business representatives and state lawmakers in the basement of the Barley House restaurant in Concord yesterday afternoon, Fiorina said people have been encouraging her to think seriously about running again.

“You know, I’m at about 98 percent,” she said, responding to a question about her considerations as she finalizes her presidential decision. “We’re on the planning phase of this announcement now.”

Multiple national media outlets have reported that Fiorina’s expected announcement could come in less than a week, on Monday. In the meantime, Fiorina is scheduled to spend the next four days in New Hampshire – with plans to return again at the end of next week, with stops in Iowa and New York in between.

Fiorina’s visit to the Barley House kicked off a series of roundtables hosted by the New Hampshire House Business Caucus and the 
Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce. The caucus will invite other candidates to participate in the months ahead, said Bedford Rep. Laurie Sanborn, who founded and leads the caucus.

Standing at the center of the tavern basement, Fiorina acknowledged that she has never served in public office before – but, she argued, that doesn’t mean she’s not fit to run the country. She pointed to her experience advising other presidential candidates and national officials, her path to becoming the first woman to lead a Fortune 50 company after starting out her career as a secretary, and her understanding, as she put it, of the important distinctions between “management” and “leadership.”

Management “is doing the best you can with the status quo,” she explained, while “the highest calling of leadership is to unlock the potential in others.”

On domestic policy, Fiorina signaled a broad goal of rolling back the existing level of regulations enacted by the federal government. Asked about how to balance out power between average citizens and major corporate influencers, Fiorina reiterated a strategy of simplification.

“The only thing that works to level the playing field is to simplify things,” she said. “The only way you can get this system back so that the small are not disadvantaged . . . is to radically simplify things.”

And the same rules, she said, “have to apply to everybody.”

“What the political class has been doing has been making exceptions – well, I don’t like that the unions play, but I want the NRA to play. Or vice versa,” she said. “Look, everybody gets to play, or nobody gets to play. You can’t have some rules for some and other rules for others.”

On foreign issues, Fiorina tried to position herself as a seasoned figure on the global stage.

“I know more world leaders on the stage today than anyone else running – with the possible exception of Hillary Clinton,” she said. “And I didn’t do photo ops with them. I sat in their offices and talked business, or charity, or issues that were of importance to them.”

That was just one of several direct challenges Fiorina made toward the lone Democratic candidate to enter so far. Noting allegations of improper email retention practices during her time as Secretary of State and recent questions about the influence of foreign governments’ donations to the Clinton Global Initiative, Fiorina painted Clinton as a politician who has provided “example after example after example of her willingness to obfuscate, to prevaricate, to peddle fictions.” (When contacted by email yesterday afternoon, Clinton’s campaign declined to respond to Fiorina’s characterizations.)

And as she contrasted her potential candidacy with Clinton’s, Fiorina – at this point, the only major female contender on the Republican side – also addressed the role that gender might play in shaping the narratives on the campaign trail in the year ahead.

After noting that she’s been directly confronted with questions about her gender as it relates to her abilities as a leader, Fiorina stated firmly: “Hillary Clinton should not be president of the United States.”

She paused a moment as a few in attendance jeered, then added: “Not because she’s a woman. Hillary Clinton shouldn’t be president of the United States because obviously she is not transparent and she is not trustworthy.” Later, Fiorina returned to the subject again – arguing that Clinton wants to “run a campaign on being the first woman president” instead of focusing on “her own track record or lack thereof.”

After her stop in Concord yesterday afternoon, Fiorina was scheduled to attend an event with another local up for election – Yvonne Dean-Bailey, a young Northwood resident running against former state representative Maureen Mann in a special election slated for May 19.

Today, Fiorina is attending a breakfast meeting at the home of George and Sandy Lazarus in Dover at 7:30 a.m., followed by a closed luncheon hosted in Portsmouth by Renee Plummer, a prominent businesswoman. Later on, she will attend an annual spaghetti dinner hosted by Sen. Jeanie Forrester at the Horse Meadow Senior Center in North Haverhill.

Her agenda is similarly packed for the rest of the week. She’ll attend a breakfast with the Contoocook Valley GOP tomorrow morning, followed by a conversation on national security issues at the inaugural New Hampshire installment of the Americans for Peace, Prosperity & Security National Security Forum, and then a later event with the Jaffrey-Rindge-Fitzwilliam Republican Committee.

She is scheduled for a visit to ConVal Regional High School for a “Task Talk” on Friday morning and another business lunch in Bedford on Friday afternoon, according to spokeswoman Anna Epstein.

Next week, Fiorina has plans to deliver the keynote address for the NH High Tech Council’s Entrepreneur of the Year Event on May 8 and the commencement speech at Southern New Hampshire University the following morning.

And as has become customary among any national figure looking to win over New Hampshire voters, Fiorina made sure to nod favorably toward the kind of participatory democracy she’s witnessed so far in the Granite State during her remarks at the Barley House. New Hampshire residents, she said, embody the kind of leadership and civic engagement needed to solve the nation’s problems in the years ahead.

“Week after week, month after month, election cycle after election cycle, the people of New Hampshire get engaged and stay engaged in their government,” Fiorina told the crowd in Concord. “I think you’re a wonderful example to the rest of the country about what citizenship really means.”

(Casey McDermott can be reached at 369-3306 or or on Twitter @caseymcdermott.)

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