Fiorina looks to turn debate accolades into dollars, votes

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Carly Fiorina Impressed (Almost) Everyone Last Night

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Propelled by her standout debate performance, Carly Fiorina sought on Thursday to turn accolades for her crisp, confident showing into actual support from voters and donors. It's a quest that will determine whether her breakthrough moment is a turning point in the Republican primary or simply a footnote.

After a few hours of sleep, Fiorina blitzed through six morning-show interviews, an on-air victory lap of sorts. In early voting states, her small staff fielded calls from local officials eager to pledge their support.

"After last night, I'm with Carly Fiorina," said Bryan Gould, a New Hampshire lawyer who was among those reaching out to Fiorina's team. Gould had also been considering Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, or retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, but he said Fiorina displayed the maturity he's been looking for in a candidate.

10 facts you should know about Carly Fiorina:

Carly Fiorina Facts
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Fiorina looks to turn debate accolades into dollars, votes

1. She’s a cancer survivor. Carly was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. She underwent a double mastectomy and endured months of chemotherapy and radiation.

(Photo by Michal Czerwonka/Getty Images)

2. She was the first female to run a Fortune 20 company, starting her tenure as CEO in 1999 at the age of 45, but her work at the company has been closely scrutinized and many consider her one of the worst CEOs in history. She was ousted in 2005.

(Photo by Jeff Christensen, AFP/Getty Images)

3. She studied medieval history and philosophy at Stanford.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

4. Her father was a deputy attorney general under President Richard Nixon.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

5. She’s a new author. Her book “Rising to the Challenge: My Leadership Journey” came out May 5. Her book “Tough Choices” came out in 2006.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

6. Her husband, Frank Fiorina, who was once an executive at AT&T, retired at 48 so he could support Carly in furthering her career. 

(AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

7. She served as an advisor to Republican John McCain when he made a run for the oval office in 2008.

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

8. She ran for U.S. Senate in 2010, ultimately losing to incumbent Democrat Senator Barbara Boxer.

(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

9. Her mother, Madelon Juergens, was an abstract artist.

(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

10. Doesn’t have her own children, but did help raise her husband's daughters, Traci and Lori Ann.

(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)


Fiorina's Iowa chairman Christopher Rants spent the day trying to make sure the candidate's upcoming events in the state had space for bigger crowds. "We wanted to hold 150 people, better make sure it holds 200 - maybe more," he said.

For Fiorina, this burst of attention will spur fresh scrutiny of her business record while she ran the technology company Hewlett-Packard - and a deeper examination of her current statements and policy positions.

The origin of one of her most attention-grabbing debate moments - her description of a video showing a fetus with legs kicking and heart beating - was already being questioned by abortion rights groups, given that the scene she referenced apparently was based on a verbal account rather than a video. According to both Planned Parenthood and anti-abortion activists, there is no scene matching her description in any of the undercover videos at the heart of the debate over the disposition of fetal tissue from abortions.

Still, the debate's immediate results were overwhelmingly positive for Fiorina, the only woman in the Republican field. That was all the more remarkable given that her campaign had to aggressively lobby debate host CNN to change the participation criteria just so she could qualify for the event.

"We feel like last night reset the race," said Keith Appell, a senior adviser to CARLY for America, a super PAC backing Fiorina.

At least in the short-term, Fiorina's strong performance could jolt a Republican race that has been dominated by the unexpected rise of Donald Trump. Her sustainability will hinge on her ability to raise money for a long campaign and build a broad enough coalition of voters to have strong showings in early contests.

Appell said the super PAC, which has been running the bulk of Fiorina's operations in key states, will keep trying to generate attention through free media and campaign appearances, while holding off on paid advertisements for now. The outside group is also looking to bolster its roster of "community captains" that can help recruit volunteers and organize voter turnout next year.

Even before Thursday's debate, Fiorina had quietly garnered positive reviews from voters in early voting Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. She's been among the most aggressive Republican candidate in taking on Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton, arguing that if the GOP nominates a woman, it would block Clinton from being able to turn her campaign into a history-making quest to become the first female president.

See more images of Carly Fiorina:

Carly Fiorina on the campaign trail
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Fiorina looks to turn debate accolades into dollars, votes
DAVENPORT, IA - SEPTEMBER 25: Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina addresses the Quad Cities New Ideas Forum at St. Ambrose University on September 25, 2015 in Davenport, Iowa. Fiorina is currently polling in second place behind Donald Trump for the Republican nomination. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MYRTLE BEACH, SC - SEPTEMBER 22: Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina speaks to voters during a town hall meeting at the Ocean Reef Convention Center September 22, 2015 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Fiorina is a former Chief Executive Officer of Hewlett-Packard and currently chairs the non-profit philanthropic organization Good360. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0333 -- Pictured: (l-r) Politician Carly Fiorina during an interview with host Jimmy Fallon on September 21, 2015 -- (Photo by: Douglas Gorenstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
GREENVILLE, SC - SEPTEMBER 18: Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina speaks to voters at the Heritage Action Presidential Candidate Forum September 18, 2015 in Greenville, South Carolina. Ten republican candidates were each given 25 minutes to talk to the crowd at the Bons Secours Wellness Arena in the upstate of South Carolina. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina looks on during the Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California on September 16, 2015. Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump stepped into a campaign hornet's nest as his rivals collectively turned their sights on the billionaire in the party's second debate of the 2016 presidential race. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive waves as she and supporters march in the Labor Day parade Monday, Sept. 7, 2015, in Milford, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
DERRY, NH - SEPTEMBER 6: Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina campaigns in New Hampshire over Labour Day weekend and meets with locals at MaryAnn's Diner on September 6, 2015 in Derry, New Hampshire. (Photos by Charles Ommanney/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
LITTLETON, NEW HAMPSHIRE - AUGUST 20: Carly Fiorina meets New Hampshire voters at a Spaghetti Dinner in the north country of Littleton, New Hampshire on Thursday, August 20, 2015. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina does a television interview during a visit to the Iowa State Fair, Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
FILE- In this Aug. 14, 2015, file photo, Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina talks to a restaurant patron during a campaign stop at the Starboard Market in Clear Lake, Iowa. CNN on Tuesday, Sept. 1, amended its criteria for the next Republican presidential debate, giving Fiorina a better chance at appearing in the Sept. 16 primetime affair. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)
Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina waves to the crowd after speaking at the RedState Gathering, Friday, Aug. 7, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina speaks during a FOX News Channel pre-debate forum at the Quicken Loans Arena, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. Seven of the candidates have not qualified for the primetime debate. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Republican presidential candidate, businesswoman Carly Fiorina speaks alongside moderator Jack Heath during a forum Monday, Aug. 3, 2015, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina speaks to local residents during a meet and greet at Cecil's Cafe, Thursday, July 23, 2015, in Marshalltown, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina greets manufacturing worker Tommy Theth as she tours Turbocam, Monday, July 6, 2015, during a campaign stop in Barrington, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Republican presidential candidate, Carly Fiorina speaks at the Road to Majority 2015 convention in Washington, Saturday, June 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina poses for photographs, Friday, June 19, 2015, at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive, gestures during her address at an N.H. High Tech Council event in Manchester, N.H., Friday, May 8, 2015. Fiorina, who ran for a Senate seat in California and lost to incumbent Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, emerged as one of the Republican Party's most aggressive Clinton critics in the weeks leading up to this week's announcement of her candidacy. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive, is interviewed by Neil Cavuto, during the "Cavuto" program on the Fox Business Network, in New York, Wednesday, May 6, 2015. Fiorina, who ran for a Senate seat in California and lost to incumbent Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, emerged as one of the Republican Party's most aggressive Clinton critics in the weeks leading up to this week's announcement of her candidacy. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina speaks at the Iowa Faith & Freedom 15th Annual Spring Kick Off, in Waukee, Iowa, Saturday, April 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
FILE - In this April 18, 2015 file photo, Carly Fiorina speaks at the Republican Leadership Summit in Nashua, N.H. The former technology executive formally entered the 2016 presidential race on Monday. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Still, she's struggled to translate praise into support in national polls. Just as concerning for Fiorina has been her lackluster fundraising. Her super PAC raised about $3.5 million in the first half of the year, while her campaign raised about half that.

Fiorina's strong performance in last month's undercard debate for low-polling candidates and her recent critiques of Trump helped give her campaign an extra spark heading into Wednesday night's main contest. While Trump's assertive, confrontational approach has confounded some of his rivals, Fiorina has been fearless in taking him on.

In one of the debate's standout moments, she delivered a sharp rebuttal to derogatory remarks Trump had made about her appearance, a comment he later tried to walk back.

"I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said," she declared.

Fiorina's broader strategy - both in the debate and moving forward in the fall campaign - is to draft off Trump's outsider appeal, while presenting herself as a more substantive alternative to the billionaire showman. She whipped through detailed answers on both domestic and foreign policy and also spoke movingly about her daughter's death during a discussion on drug policy.

"I think she is rapidly becoming the more authoritative voice for the outsiders, the one who speaks with class and dignity and details," said Mike Dennehy, who ran Rick Perry's New Hampshire campaign until the former Texas governor pulled out of the race last week.

Still, Fiorina needs only to look back to the 2012 Republican primary to see how quickly a burst of momentum can fade. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann parlayed a strong debate performance into a victory in Iowa's summer straw poll, but she faded by the time actual voting got underway. A slew of other longshot candidates also had moments atop the polls before collapsing.

Fiorina aides say she's realistic about the impact of a single debate, but still came off stage visibly pleased with her performance.

And after the candidate stood throughout the three-hour debate, Fiorina's deputy campaign manager Sarah Isgur Flores added, "She wanted to take those heels off."

Carly Fiorina Presidential Candidate Profile | InsideGov

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