Carly Fiorina embedded a message deep within her speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference: Don't count me out of 2016.
As National Journal's Shane Goldmacher astutely points out, Fiorina is on the board of the American Conservative Union—the group that organizes CPAC—meaning she likely had sway over when she gave her speech. And she got a nice deal: Going in between Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Ted Cruz guaranteed a big audience.
And that audience got a good show, including some red meat they may not have expected from the lesser-known Fiorina, who served as CEO at Hewlett-Packard until 2005. Unlike every other Republican presidential hopeful at CPAC, Fiorina is uniquely able to criticize Clinton without having to worry about cries of sexism. And it's an ability that she did not take for granted on Thursday.
"This is not leadership," she said of Obama. "Nor is it leadership when Secretary Clinton asks what difference does it make when our embassy is deliberately attacked by terrorists and four Americans are murdered," Fiorina said. "It makes all the difference, Mrs. Clinton, and the required response has never come."
Fiorina also took the opportunity to slam the other leading lady in Democratic politics: Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
"Elizabeth Warren is right: Crony capitalism is indeed alive and well," Fiorina said. "Government and government programs have grown so big, so powerful, so costly, and so complex that only the big and the powerful can prosper. But Elizabeth Warren is dead wrong about how to end crony capitalism. You see, whether it is Dodd-Frank, Obamacare, or net neutrality, all this government complexity means the big get bigger, the small disappear, and the powerless are trapped."
Fiorina also readministered a burn notice to Clinton about her claim of traveling to 112 countries during her time as secretary of State. "Like Mrs. Clinton, I too have traveled the globe," Fiorina said, adding that "flying is an activity, not an accomplishment."
"I have met Vladimir Putin, and I know his determination will not be deterred by a gimmicky red reset button," Fiorina continued. "Mrs. Clinton, please name an accomplishment. And in the meantime, please explain why we should accept that the millions and millions of dollars that have flowed into the Clinton Global Initiative from from foreign governments doesn't represent a conflict of interest."
"She tweets about women's rights in this country and takes money from governments that deny women the most basic human rights. She tweets about equal pay for women, but won't answer basic questions about her own office's pay standards—and neither will our president. Hillary may like hashtags, but she does not know what leadership means."
In the question-and-answer period after her remarks, Fiorina was asked how important it is to have a female candidate in the 2016 presidential race. "Any suggestions on who that should be?" the interviewer asked cheekily.
"I think our party needs to be as diverse as the nation we hope to represent," Fiorina said, noting that women now make up 53 percent of the electorate. "We are not a special-interest group., We are the majority of the nation."
At the end of her appearance, Fiorina got in final jab: "If Hillary Clinton had to face me on a debate stage, at the very least she would have a hitch in her swing."