Fiorina promises a fight for Republican nomination

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MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (AP) — Former tech CEO Carly Fiorina, hailed for her performance at the second GOP debate, held roughly 1,000 Michigan Republicans in silence, broke them up in laughter and then brought them to their feet in cheers and chants of "Carly, Carly."

"I am a fearless fighter. I will not falter. I have been tested and I will fight this fight," said Fiorina, one of five GOP presidential candidates to address the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference on Saturday.

Most of the other Republicans seeking the party's presidential nomination were pitching their agendas to more than 1,000 party conservatives at an event sponsored by the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition.

Businessman Donald Trump, the front-runner in polling, used part of his speech in Iowa to defend himself against critics who said he should have corrected a man at a rally on Friday when he asserted, incorrectly, that President Barack Obama was a Muslim and not an American. Trump said he would have faced criticism if he had jumped in and read aloud tweets he sent in his defense, including one that read: "Am I morally obligated to defend the president every time somebody says something bad or controversial about him? I don't think so."

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Carly Fiorina on the campaign trail
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Fiorina promises a fight for Republican nomination
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)
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Fiorina, whose physical appearance Trump criticized in an interview, continued her subtle jabs at the television personality and real estate mogul. "Leadership isn't defined by position, or title, or how big your office is, your airplane, your helicopter, your ego," she told Michigan Republicans.

In the historic Grand Hotel on Michigan's Mackinac Island, Fiorina joined former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul for the three-day conference that has become a regular stop for GOP presidential candidates and attracted more than 2,300 overall.

Michigan offers the most delegates of the three primary contests on March 8 and follows closely early nominating races in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Republicans also view Michigan as more competitive for the general election than at any time since 1988, the last time a GOP presidential candidate carried the state.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker scratched the Michigan event — for the second time — because a charter flight he arranged was grounded in Chicago due to inclement weather, aides said. Walker had accepted an invitation to open the conference as the keynote speaker Friday night with Bush, but canceled due to travel constraints, then rescheduled for Saturday morning.

"We have moved heaven and earth to get him here," Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel told those who attended Saturday's breakfast expecting to hear Walker.

Walker attended the forum, put on by an evangelical conservative group, in Iowa, where he has seen his lead among likely Republican caucus goers disappear in the past two months. The scheduling wrinkle came as he scaled back his initially ambitious campaign for president to focus on neighboring Iowa, a scramble meant to reassure jittery donors and supporters after a quiet performance in the debate.

Walker sought to distinguish himself as a proven government reformer by comparing himself to surging rivals such as Fiorina, who was CEO of Hewlett Packard, and Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon.

"You wouldn't hire me to be a neurosurgeon ... you wouldn't want to hire me to run HP," Walker said. "But if you want somebody who's taken on the Washington-based special interests and won ... then I ask for your support, I ask for your vote."

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Fiorina promises a fight for Republican nomination

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)

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Ohio's Kasich continued the appeal he made during the debate for the government to offer a hand up to people as a way to broaden the party. "When we do better, people who live in the shadows cannot be ignored," he told Michigan Republicans. "If you're in a minority community we want you to be lifted, we want you to be part of everything."

Before dashing to attend the South Carolina-Georgia college football game in Athens, Georgia, Bush on Friday evening had a message similar to Kasich's. Bush has begun hitting back aggressively since Trump used a dire description of the state of the country and negative characterizations of Mexican immigrants to win support. Bush said Republicans need to show middle-class voters feeling left behind in by the economy and traditionally Democratic voting groups such as African-Americans that GOP policies benefit them.

"If we are serious about winning, we need to be on their side and assume that they want to achieve earned success, because they do," Bush said.

Saturday evening, Kentucky's Paul described Republicans such as Jeb Bush as "Democrat light" and said "I couldn't disagree more" with modest reforms. "I think we can be boldly for what we're for and get new voters," Paul said.

Cruz spoke to a lunchtime audience in Michigan before joining the Iowa group as its final speaker. In his evening remarks, he criticized Republican congressional leaders, saying they were not doing enough to defund Planned Parenthood and that they were "trying to pound all of us into submission."

He added: "If conservatives unite, this primary is over. What Washington wants, what the Washington establishment wants, is to divide us."

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former New York Gov. George Pataki also spoke at the Iowa forum.

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