Photo credit: Lance Martens

Former Presidential Candidate and HP CEO Carly Fiorina recently took to social media to take issue with Republicans who attack anyone who criticizes the President as disloyal. Her comments led to immediate speculation about a 2020 Presidential challenge in the Republican Primaries or as an Independent. 

News soon spread throughout the media that Fiorina wouldn’t run for President. However, I think the reports over-simplify. The source story from National Review’s John McCormack says :

“She’s not running,” a source close to Fiorina tells National Review. “She has no plans to run in the Republican primary against Trump or as a third-party candidate.”

For her part, Fiorina has recently said on Facebook that she doesn’t know if she’ll ever run for President again, that she “doesn’t have a destination in mind.” Her Twitter feed has seen a marked increase in 

Many pieces written on this have been a bit shallow as Fiorina has been mostly out of the news for the past three years. Anti-Trump stalwart Charlie Sykes imagined Fiorina could spend several months of her life running for President, to combine with the three lesser candidates challenging the President in the GOP primary to embarrass him in New Hampshire.

Yet, I think Fiorina could bring quite a bit to the presidential race, though not as a GOP primary candidate. It’s too late and too pointless for that. Fiorina also seems far too aware of the problems in the GOP primary process in an interview with Jay Nordlinger of National Review. Instead, I think she could make a significant impact as an independent candidate for President.

Now, I’m not saying Carly Fiorina is the only person who can or should make an Independent presidential run. I know many have been excited by the possibility of Congressman Justin Amash, I-Mich., running for President. It’s fallacious to hang all your hopes on one particular candidate, particularly when that candidate hasn’t committed to run. So I disparage no other potential candidate, but I do think Fiorina brings a lot of interesting assets to the table.

In the 2016 campaign, Fiorina proved herself a capable debater, who spoke with a great deal of sincerity and passion about the issues as well as our country. Fiorina’s campaign didn’t flame out due to self-inflicted wounds like Rick Perry or Michelle Bachmann in 2012, but rather Trump and the efforts to counter him sucked all the oxygen out of the room. Fiorina, a former chairwoman of the American Conservative Union Foundation, is a solid conservative, but with a less hard-edged approach than many on the right these days.

Fiorina identifies as a feminist, but she’s not an extremist, recently tweeting, “A feminist is a woman who lives the life she chooses. We will have arrived when every woman can decide for herself how to best find and use her God-given gifts.” Fiorina doesn’t engage in self-pity or grievance-mongering. Both the feminism and conservatism of Carly Fiorina are winsome, aspirational, and hopeful, which is more than you can say for mainstream feminism or mainstream conservatism these days.

Fiorina has a good personal story. Unlike Trump, who inherited the base of his wealth, Fiorina worked her way up through the ranks, as a law school dropout who worked as a secretary and eventually became the first woman to serve as CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Along the way, she’s battled cancer and dealt with the death of her stepdaughter.

Fiorina is an expert on leadership and fundamentally objects to Trump’s leadership, telling David Montgomery of the Washington Post that she stands by the assertion from the campaign that Trump is an entertainer. “I do not think he leads. Leaders change the order of things for the better. Leaders understand how they do things matters as much as what they do. Leaders bind people together. Leaders look for win-win. Leaders solve problems.”

While Fiorina got lost in the craziness of the 2016 GOP Presidential race, as an Independent Candidate, she would offer a contrast between Trump and either of the most likely Democratic candidates. She’d provide sensible, sound conservative leadership. She’d also provide a compelling alternative to people who object to the President’s actions and attitudes towards women.

The statement of Fiorina’s ally that she has “no plans” to run is not encouraging. However, the statement wouldn’t satisfy the late Tim Russert, who always demanded potential candidates give “Shermanesque” statements (i.e., If nominated I will not run, if elected, I will not serve.)

Let’s also consider Fiorina’s book Find Your Way. The central premise of this book is that one doesn’t live the best life according to a plan such as, “I will run for and be elected President.” Fiorina asserts regarding her rise to CEO of HP, “The truth is there was never a plan. What there was instead was a path.” Fiorina makes the point one lives his or her best life by following a path of values like working hard, addressing problems, collaborating, and “changing the order of things.” Towards the end of the list, she includes “recognizing opportunity when it knocks and having the courage to walk through the door.”

Headlines about the statement by Fiorina perhaps would be more accurate if they read, “Woman Who Advocates Not Living Life According to a Plan Has No Plans to Run for President.”

Her approach and philosophy of life mean we have to take “no plans” as “no plans right now, but that well could change.” While it would be late in the process for Fiorina to launch a Republican Presidential run, it would be quite early to begin an Independent Presidential campaign. The Democratic presidential campaign and the impeachment are eating up all the oxygen in the political room.

Ross Perot gave his famous interview on Larry King Live that set the stage for his Independent Presidential campaign on February 20, 1992. February 20, 2020, is a sweet spot for any Independent Candidate announcement with the first deadline for Independent candidates being in May. By that time, the impeachment of President Trump would be settled, and we’ll have a good idea who the Democratic nominee will be. In addition, should President Trump underperform in the New Hampshire Primary and be held under 65% of the vote by his underwhelming challengers, we’ll be in the midst of a month-long conversation about Trump’s weakness, thanks in part to overzealous supporters in South Carolina and Nevada canceling the remaining two GOP contests in February.

Fiorina would not get in the race to spite President Trump, to throw the election to the Democrats, or to sell books, which would be the popular explanations from the GOP punditry if she runs. In her interview with David Montgomery, she explained her decision to go into leadership consulting this way, “I want to solve problems. I want to make a positive difference.” Fiorina would have to see a potential campaign as making a long-term difference for the better in American politics.

As an independent candidate, Fiorina would be a longshot. However, she or someone like her would give people disgusted by the two major-party candidates someone to vote for and lay the groundwork for building a new political coalition to replace one of the major political parties and move our country past the dysfunctional culture that is growing dominant. She’d do particularly well in this effort with a running mate like former Utah Congresswoman Mia Love, R-UT, or pro-life Louisiana State Senator Katrina Jackson, D-La., who could help with forming a new coalition.

While I would not hazard a guess whether Fiorina’s path will lead to a 2020 Presidential Campaign, it wouldn’t surprise me if it did. America could definitely do worse. It already has.

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