Carly Fiorina: Long on Bio, Short on Narrative

Carly Fiorina (photo credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Carly Fiorina (photo credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Carly Fiorina brought the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) audience to its feet by calling the proposed deal with Iran a threat to American security.  It was the high point of her speech (which you can watch here) in terms of audience reaction, and in fact, opposition to the pending Iran deal – which purportedly would only impose a mere ten year hiatus on Iranian nuclear ambitions – has consistently been the biggest applause line here at CPAC, conspicuously more rousing than “end Obamacare.”

Ms. Fiorina’s riff is mostly self-referential, built on her rise from humble beginnings to leadership of Hewlett-Packard.  While invoking American greatness and taking some shots at Hillary Clinton (“someone should tell Mrs. Clinton travel is an activity, not an accomplishment”), Ms. Fiorina’s remarks did not strive to articulate a coherent policy vision for American renewal.

On social issues, we are left to infer from “everyone has potential” that Ms. Fiorina would be a pro-life president, but her not saying so specifically leads to the assumption that this issue is not a priority.  She may be making the political novice’s error of being too coy by a half.

On the economy, we were told work is a key element of the American dream, and that we need to end corporate cronyism – not as Elizabeth Warren would, but by reducing regulation.  Ms. Fiorina tells us we need to rebuild Main Street, we need more jobs, and we need more small businesses.  No arguments here, but these are not lines that identify with the economic plight of the suffering middle class.  And how to obtain these ends remained unspoken.

Ms. Fiorina needs a narrative which will both convey her solidarity with the American worker and give hope that there is a path forward.  She closed by saying, “Let us restore the promise of this, our beloved, our beautiful United States of America.”  Let’s.  But how?

Steve Wagner is the founder and president of QEV Analytics, a Washington DC -based public opinion research firm.