Carly Fiorina: My Hormones Don't Make Me Unfit For The White House

Photo: Charlie Riedel/AP Photo.
The Iowa State Fair is an annual to-do where more than a million people gather to eat pork chops on a stick, see a giant cow made out of butter, and hear from Republican presidential candidates. On Monday afternoon, Carly Fiorina took her turn, giving a speech and answering questions from the audience about drilling for oil, small businesses, ISIS, and Planned Parenthood.

It felt like a chance for the candidate to reintroduce herself to voters — and highlighted why, during this cycle in particular, Fiorina, a conservative Republican woman, is such an interesting candidate.

The former Hewlett Packard CEO took on gender discrimination she's experienced head-on. “I was asked on a national television program whether a woman’s hormones prevented her from serving in the Oval Office,” she said. “My response was: Can we think of a single instance in which a man’s hormones might have clouded his judgment?” It's a pretty clear jab at Bill Clinton (who also happens to be the Democratic front-runner's husband) but also a strong statement against sexism from the lone woman in a field of 16 men.

Despite a slow start — when she announced her campaign, she was polling at less than 2%, and fewer than 40% of voters knew who she was — Fiorina has taken advantage of the momentum and acclaim she gained in the first Republican debate, on August 6, where she came off as more reasonable and realistic than some of the candidates who shared the stage with her during the face-off among the bottom seven candidates. Now she's a familiar sight in Iowa, and some polls there have her in the top five candidates.

Fiorina, whose only previous political experience was an unsuccessful run against California Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2010, is a strong social conservative. She's against same-sex marriage and would ban abortion except in the cases of rape or incest, or to save a woman's life. But her positions are nuanced: She backs same-sex civil unions, and the fact that she supports any abortion exceptions at all means she's still more progressive on the issue than most of her fellow GOPers. She also wants contraceptives to be available without a prescription, which is also part of Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte's recent birth-control plan.

She's spoken out often about the need for pay equality for women, but she doesn't support equal-pay legislation or guaranteed paid maternity leave (she does believe women should not be paid less than men for the same work — just not that there should be laws about it).

When she appeared at the fair on Monday, she said she would defund Planned Parenthood, and she also cited misleading information about abortion in the Black community and the essential medical services that the organization provides. “Anybody who buys the Democratic argument that this is about women’s health [needs] to look at all of the other facilities that provide women’s health services,” she said.

It's still too early in the presidential race to predict which candidate will emerge victorious. Donald Trump and Ben Carson are at the top of a new Fox News poll, and there are six more GOP debates scheduled for this year alone. But this early time is the best opportunity for candidates without tens of millions of dollars in Super PAC money or a long political track record to grab the spotlight.

Even with her recent surge, it's unlikely that Fiorina will have to account for these positions against the Democratic candidate, who will be someone who lobbies for access to birth control, reproductive health care, and policies that support working parents, even if the nominee isn't Hillary Clinton. But at a time when other candidates are advocating for personhood rights for fetuses and abortion bans without any exceptions, she's not as easy to pin down for being out of touch with what women voters want.
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