The way Lauren Carney sees it, Carly Fiorina is as qualified and prepared to be President of the United States as anyone in the current Republican field of potential presidential candidates.
“Carly could have a following in New Hampshire and elsewhere as much as any person who has been listed in whatever lists people are keeping for 2016,” the veteran Republican political activist from Hancock said Wednesday.
Carney, the state director for the former Hewlett-Packard CEO’s Unlocking Potential grassroots activism PAC, said, “Carly is one of the most inspiring people I have worked with in the last 25 years. I find her to be very down to earth, easily accessible, easy to talk to. And she is thoughtful in how she deals with people.”
After working through the UP Project during the midterm elections attempting to energize conservative, Republican and independent women to fight back against what she calls “the Democrats’ ‘war on women’ propaganda,” Fiorina — as the Washington Post reported on Tuesday — is now “actively exploring” a presidential candidacy.
A source familiar with her interest described Fiorina’s status to the New Hampshire Journal as “due diligence,” rather than “actively building a team.”
Although the Post said she is talking privately with potential donors, recruiting campaign staffers and courting grass-roots activists, the source maintained the effort hasn’t advanced quite that far, at least not yet.
“She hasn’t spent time asking activists to be a part of her effort,” the source said. “She’s in the mode of, ‘I’m going to kick the tires and see what it looks like.’”
Reportedly helping her with the effort is Steve DeMaura, president of Americans for Job Security and a former executive director of the NHGOP, who also is an adviser to the UP Project.
Fiorina is, however, planning a return trip to New Hampshire – next Friday, Dec. 5, for an event at the Bedford Country Club hosted by the Independent Business Council of New Hampshire, headed by U.S. Rep.-elect Guinta. The group is expected to release an economic report entitled, ““Visionary New Hampshire: A new policy roadmap for economic growth.”
The source said Guinta invited Fiorina to be a part of the event “many months ago.” She is also headed to first-caucus state Iowa in January.
The New Hampshire Journal was told that Fiorina’s exploration of a presidential run grew out of the reception she received from Republicans in New Hampshire and other key states during her work for the UP Project. The UP Project, sources said, was not set up to be a “placeholder” for a Fiorina candidacy.
“She was incredibly well received when she was in New Hampshire this summer and fall,” said Carney. “I think anyone would pause and think about it if you were giving the keynote address at the New Hampshire Republican State Convention and people were chanting your name. I know I would stop and think about it.”
Carney said the New Hampshire UP Project team “was effective in engaging thousands of women in a real dialogue about Republican candidates and conservative policies. We took a different approach to building a ground game, one that was a good supplement to the great work many other organizations were doing. In building this ground effort we build a strong team of women leaders who we hope will continue to engage with New Hampshire women through Unlocking Potential on behalf of Republican candidates and causes.”
Fiorina keynoted the convention in September.
Veteran GOP activist and strategist Jim Merrill sees Fiorina as a viable potential candidate.
“Carly Fiorina is clearly testing the water in New Hampshire and elsewhere,” he said, “and testing a conservative, pro-business message that highlights her unique personal story.
“Next year’s GOP primary field will be one of the deepest and most wide open we’ve ever seen, with room for someone of Fiorina’s accomplishments,” Merrill said. “The fact that she may be the only woman to run on the Republican side will add to the interest in her potential candidacy.”
Another veteran state political strategist, Tom Rath, said that while “it is difficult to handicap her chances, she is a serious person who I would think is pretty knowledgeable on the process.”
Rath noted that Fiorina helped 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney with fundraising, and, like Merrill, said he expected her to focus on an economic message.
Carney said the UP Project is currently measuring the effectiveness of the UP Projects door-knocking program during the midterm campaign.
“Those results are being are compiled by academics,” she said. “But what I can say is anecdotally, the reactions of people we met going door was very positive because we took time to discuss the issues and the importance of people being involved in the process. We listened to their concerns and encouraged people to participate. I think people received our message well.”
Carney said that although Fiorina ran for the U.S. Senate from California (and lost in 2010), “she is not a politician.” Since then she has been residing in Virginia.
“Does she have a role in this” presidential campaign? “Sure, as much as anybody else who has stepped over the New Hampshire border thinking of running for President,” said Carney.
Added the source, “She is not going to be a frontrunner in New Hampshire, but she definitely has a role to play if she decides to play it.”
Besides her work heading the UP Project, Fiorina, 60, is chairman of the Global Board of Opportunity International, a nonprofit that provides small business loans, insurance and training to people trying to work their way out of poverty around the world.
She also chairs Good360, a nonprofit that helps charities obtain excess merchandise from private companies, instead of having it destroyed. And she is a member of the Board of Visitors of James Madison University.