More scientific recent polls have shown Fiorina climbing the ranks in Iowa, as well. A Quinnipiac University poll released last week placed her in eighth. A Monmouth University poll released Monday found that support for Fiorina had increased 7 points, up to 10 percent in August from 3 percent in July.
Iowans who got to know Fiorina by watching her at the “happy hour” debate are upset about the possibility that she won’t make it onto the next main debate stage.
At an event in Carroll, state Rep. Brian Best told me he’d already endorsed Walker for president, but called it “flat-out wrong” for CNN to exclude Fiorina from the next debate.
At the same event, Craig Williams, the Carroll County Republican Party chairman, noted that there weren’t any CNN cameras covering Fiorina’s speech.
“I think CNN is doing a great disservice to the people of this country by not allowing Carly Fiorina onstage,” he said.
One of Fiorina’s strengths in Iowa is her retail politics. In speaking to a group, as in one-on-one interactions, Fiorina makes a quick and forceful impression as a tough-minded but sensible business leader—an impression that may not hold up to scrutiny. And you need to make an impression quickly if you have next-to-no name identification nationally.
“They go in with little to no information about her ... they come out and they are just absolutely and utterly impressed,” Kaufmann said. “The only thing is, it’s a lot of hard work and it’s a lot of money ... that’s a heck of a lot more difficult than putting out a commercial.”
“She seems to have an excellent grasp of the caucus process and the retail-heavy nature: the personal phone calls, the hand-written notes, remembering names, staying to take questions,” Matt Strawn, a former Iowa GOP chairman, said of Fiorina. “The Carly that the nation saw during the first debate in August is the Carly that Iowans have been seeing since early 2015.”
Fiorina’s camp has shown itself not afraid to put in the work, hours, and expense of shuttling between early primary states. (Occasionally, that travel comes with casualties. While driving to a campaign stop in Carroll, Fiorina’s car hit a deer; or rather, the deer hit the side of the car. “It was the deer’s fault, absolutely,” Fiorina told a crowd in Des Moines.)
Last week marked Fiorina’s 10th trip to Iowa this year, starting with a Lincoln Dinner speech in January that put her on the radar of Iowa Republicans. She’s made more visits to Iowa than Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Rand Paul, or Jeb Bush. And while her fundraising is anemic compared to most of those candidates, she nonetheless continues to win Iowans over, one at a time.
“She’s proved to be a very popular figure on the stump,” said Tim Albrecht, the director of digital communications at Red Wave Digital in Des Moines. “Her message of economic populism has a place within the grassroots that’s been tapped into before, and it will be tapped into again.”