Are you there, Carly Fiorina? Many voters and political commentators have not had this name cross their lips in months, which is a shock after her breakthrough performances in the debates.
After Trump made comments to The Rolling Stone about Fiorina’s appearance, Fiorina responded at the September debate with a very concise, “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.” This poised statement earned cheers from the audience that could be heard on the live telecast.
This moment marked a turning point in Fiorina’s campaign. She was one of the few (if not the only) candidate who was successful in silencing Trump and turning an audience against him with one brief sentence. Despite this powerful moment, only a few months later her campaign has all but faltered as she sits at 3% in the national polls. What caused this sudden change?
Recently, members of her campaign acknowledged the lack of momentum after this huge Fiorina moment. They admitted they avoided hyping this breakthrough because it would be hard to sustain any momentum build. Another reason? Because they knew it would open the door for other candidates to openly attack her, and that was something they aimed to prevent.
In today’s campaigns, who are you if someone doesn’t have a target on your back? Big name candidates don’t go after those they do not fear, why would they? There’s no point wasting the effort in destroying someone’s name if they don’t have a chance in winning anyways. In order to gain the attention of the media, you must have a conflict with another candidate that becomes well-publicized. Take a look at the most recent Republican debate. In the days leading up to the big event, all of the headlines did not focus on what each candidate would discuss or what their stances on foreign policy issues would be, but rather, who would be attacking who? Side note, Fiorina was not included in any of the predicted rivalries.
Conflict is interesting not just to the media trying to sell papers and get website clicks, but also to many voters. Many low information voters, people who vote with little or no knowledge about each candidate, rely mainly on personal opinions about the candidates, or what they hear through the media. If you can’t drum up interest through a conflict, these voters, who are often seen as swing voters, won’t know you exist!
Fiorina made a huge mistake by fearing conflict which proves that maybe she isn’t suited for a job where people will be coming at her with personal and ideological attacks on a daily basis.