Carly Fiorina, the former head of Hewlett Packard and an unsuccessful Senate candidate in 2010, now heads a PAC aimed at boosting women in politics. And, she might be the latest addition to the list of 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls, according to a piece over at the National Journal. Like a handful of others, Fiorina has visited key primary states, trying to help her party's chances in November.
So, as National Journal notes, Carly Fiorina is thinking about it. But is anybody thinking about Carly Fiorina?
The answer to that is no, not really. Not the political press, not top GOP donors, not grassroots activists or GOP officeholders. And in fact, not only is Fiorina being overlooked by her party, so are other Republican women. At a time when the fight for the GOP nomination is wide open, no women are being seriously mentioned as candidates. That's all the more amazing when you consider that Democrats seem set to nominate Hillary Clinton as their presidential standard-bearer.
This chart from Gallup shows the paucity of female presidential prospects within the GOP. Of the 11 candidates tested, not one was a woman.
Partly it's a function of numbers. Of the 20 women serving in the Senate, just four are Republicans. On the gubernatorial side, there are only five female Governors, four are Republicans and one is a Democrat. That makes eight GOP women in the pool of people who are normally thought about when it comes to presidential politics. (If you want to throw someone like House Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers into the mix, you can, but you still don't break double digits of top women prospects for Republicans.)
But there is also something else at work. Top Republicans rarely float the names of women when they talk about 2016. Comments from big party donors, strategists and people like Mitt Romney all focus on the same group of men from the above poll. One recent conversation between Ann Romney and Neil Cavuto stands out, however. Her idea of what a strong GOP field might look like was very different from what we've heard from other influential Republicans. (Her comments on 2016 come about three minutes into the video).
Here's the exchange:
Cavuto: Do you have, if your husband chooses not to run...just like you say...he doesn't want to run...do you have any candidates who intrigue you ?
Romney: I wish I could see some women out there. I love [South Carolina Gov.] Nikki Haley. There’s some others out there. [New Mexico Gov.] Susana Martinez that I think are intriguing.
Cavuto: There are all men right now.
Romney: I know. I’d love to see more women participate. [New Hampshire Sen.] Kelly Ayotte, by the way, she’s a wonderful, wonderful friend.”
Outgoing Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann got in on the action in a July interview, saying: "The only thing that the media has speculated on is that it’s going to be various men that are running. They haven’t speculated, for instance, that I’m going to run. What if I decide to run? And there’s a chance I could run.”
The political press covers what people say and what people do/where they go. So when Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) suggests that he might mount a bid, we write about it. Same with Indiana Governor Michael Pence or even Dr. Ben Carson.
All those men and their aides know this: merely talking about thinking about running for President is good for business. It's good for political prospects, it's good for fundraising, it's good for future earnings etc. And clearly, Fiorina, a successful businesswoman knows this. No, nobody is thinking about Fiorina, but Fiorina is thinking about Fiorina. And that's a good thing.
But at least one problem in the presidential sweepstakes game is that raising the possibility of a White House bid is the ultimate form of bragging, something women are simply less likely to do, according to a recent study. Think about it: Floating yourself as a presidential candidate is essentially saying that you believe yourself to the single person best equipped to represent a country.
Haley and Martinez, who have been mentioned as possible VPs, are on the ballot in November and will likely win their races. Come 2015, perhaps they will get their brag on like Bobby Jindal and Mike Huckabee, and realize there is no downside to talking themselves up as White House contenders. The question is whether the party bigwigs will join them. They should -- what with the gender gap growing and Clinton, at least at the moment, set to face a field of all men.