Carly Fiorina Ambushes Hillary Clinton in S.C.

Carly Fiorina Ambushes Hillary Clinton in S.C.
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COLUMBIA, S.C. – Voters cannot and should not trust Hillary Clinton – that was Carly Fiorina’s message as she traveled to South Carolina on Wednesday, the same day Clinton campaigned in the Palmetto State.

The former Hewlett-Packard CEO addressed the South Carolina Republican Legislative Caucus, while the former secretary of state spoke to the state legislature’s Democratic Women’s Caucus and the state’s Democratic Women’s Council.

Although Fiorina has attempted to separate herself from the crowded 2016 Republican field with spirited attacks on Clinton, she denied that she was following Clinton here, telling reporters she’d been scheduled to come to Columbia for weeks. She suggested that the former first lady perhaps was following her, instead.

Contrasting herself with Clinton, who slammed Republicans for their opposition to equal pay legislation, Fiorina suggested that government is in no position to dictate workforce issues to the private sector.

“I am amazed at how often people in the federal government or politicians who serve in government are ready to throw stones at businesses of all sizes,” Fiorina said. “Perhaps it would be helpful if politicians and the federal government would clean up their own act first.”

She advocated for government to move toward adopting a pay-for-performance system, rather than paying employees based on seniority.

According to Fiorina, the statistic often cited by Democrats that women earn 78 cents for every dollar men make is a bogus data point used by politicians to drive an agenda “regardless of the facts or causes.”

On discrimination against women, Fiorina turned the discussion to the press. “I think the media hold women to different standards,” she said. “[The press] scrutinizes women differently, criticizes women different, caricatures women differently.”

Fiorina, who ran an unsuccessful 2010 Senate campaign in California, was also asked about former White House communications director Nicolle Wallace’s comments that male GOP candidates are using Fiorina as their surrogate to attack Clinton.

“Nicolle Wallace doesn’t know me very well,” Fiorina said. “The vast majority of my speeches are about a host of issues that are important to the American people.”

Nonetheless, Fiorina was, as usual, eager to talk about Hillary Clinton.

“The office of the presidency should be about transparency and trustworthiness,” Fiorina said. “How can we trust Mrs. Clinton?”

Clinton has been dogged by questions regarding Clinton Foundation fundraising practices while she was the nation’s top diplomat. She has also faced scrutiny for her exclusive use of a private email account during her tenure at the helm of the State Department, possibly in violation of department regulations.

Fiorina dwelled on these controversies as evidence for why the American public distrusts “the professional political class” embodied, she said, by Bill and Hillary Clinton. Fiorina, who has never held elected office, is trying to separate herself from that class.

Fiorina, though, is no stranger to criticism. During interviews, she has been pressed repeatedly about her tenure at Hewlett-Packard, which included mass layoffs and other troubles under her leadership, resulting in her firing.

Clinton has also come under scrutiny for her limited media availability. Fiorina, meanwhile, touted the number of interviews she has done and questions she has fielded from reporters. “I think it’s appropriate that Hillary Clinton be asked to answer a whole set of questions that you [the press] have been trying to ask her and that she has so far failed to answer,” she said.

She commended the media for reporting that the Clinton Foundation did not meet the standard of equal pay for equal work among staff members, but wondered why the Clintons will not answer questions about the discrepancies.

Fiorina spoke at an entrepreneurship panel at a Clinton Foundation event last July, but insisted that this involvement did not undercut her argument. Asked if she would have agreed to speak if she knew what we know now about the foundation, Fiorina said she probably would not be invited, adding that she did not regret speaking on the panel.

Beyond their gender, Fiorina said that she and Clinton have a few basic common traits. Both are hard working, intelligent mothers and grandmothers, she said, but they have very distinct worldviews.

They also differ in terms of support among voters in their respective parties. The RealClearPolitics national average among Republican presidential contenders shows Fiorina running in 12th place with a meager 1.3 percent of GOP support. Clinton, meanwhile, maintains her status as the overwhelming frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, with 64.2 percent support among Democrats in the RealClearPolitics national average.

 

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com.  Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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