For much of this early campaign season, in the crowded field of Republican candidates, Mrs. Fiorina didn’t look as if she had much of a chance at the White House. But recently, in the afterglow of her impressive performance in the first Republican debate, Mrs. Fiorina has begun to make significant gains in the polls that have made her a more formidable candidate. She has attracted attention for her sharply articulated pro-market policies and broadsides against both Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald J. Trump.
And so it is curious to those of us who have reported on her business career that there has not been a greater focus in recent days on her “track records and accomplishments,” as she suggested she should be measured by.
Even more striking, Mrs. Fiorina, the only former female chief executive among the candidates, continues to promote her business experience on the trail, yet she was fired by Hewlett-Packard after the company’s stock dropped by half in 2005. She has long blamed her failings at running the technology giant on the bursting of the dot-com bubble and the deepening recession in Silicon Valley after the Sept. 11 attacks.
In an essay published late last week, Mrs. Fiorina also said she lost her job because of her maverick management style. “When you lead and when you challenge the status quo, you make enemies,” she wrote in the essay published on CNN’s website. “It’s why Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Walt Disney and Mike Bloomberg have all been fired.”
While those four business icons all received pink slips at some point in their careers (as a young man, Mr. Disney was fired from a Missouri newspaper for lacking imagination), none presided over such a sharp decline in one of America’s great companies.
“Experience can be a badge of honor or a badge of shame,” said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a senior associate dean for leadership studies at the Yale School of Management, who wrote a recent essay about Mrs. Fiorina’s travails. In an interview, he compared Mrs. Fiorina to the captain who caused the shipwreck of Carnival’s Costa Concordia in 2012. “He will never be trusted with a public leadership role. Captains of industry must also be accountable.”
In September of 2001, I remember sitting in a theater in midtown Manhattan, listening raptly as Mrs. Fiorina announced Hewlett-Packard’s merger with Compaq and boasted about the combined company’s prospects.
“Hang with us,” she said on that same day in a conference call with reporters. “It’s going to be a great party.”
The party never happened, but the hangover was brutal. Hewlett-Packard is still recovering from the ill-conceived merger nearly 15 years later, and recently decided to split the company up. There were some 30,000 layoffs. Its stock price plunged and badly lagged its competition.
There's a reason why Fiorina got her clock cleaned by Barbara Boxer by ten points in 2010's California Senate race in a year where Republicans made record gains elsewhere. She's a terrible candidate across the board, and I frankly have no idea why she's running, She basically destroyed Hewlett-Packard and her record as CEO alone should have even Republicans recall the antics of the last terrible CEO in the Oval Office, one George W. Bush.
Fiorina's an also-ran and isn't going anywhere. Besides, Republicans have a MUCH bigger problem in Donald Trump right now. A new CNN poll this morning still shows Hillary Clinton easily beating all contenders. Oh, and the Republican candidate that she would have the largest margin of victory against?
Carly Fiorina, by ten points. Fiorina's faring even worse in the general election than Trump is against Clinton.
But please, keep banging that drum, kids.