As we ended 2014, I was made aware of the fact that ex-HP CEO Carly Fiorina may have plans to run for president on the Republican ticket in 2106. Now, you may be thinking that you have been celebrating too much this week and this entire post is simply the hallucination that resulted. No such luck. I actually think her running would be a good thing.
At the Examiner, writer James George compares Fiorina to current HP CEO Meg Whitman unfavorably, but Whitman ran against an ancient politician with the nickname “Moonbeam” for an open seat (no incumbent) and committed political suicide during the election. Fiorina was running against an incumbent in the state’s power party and executed far better, though she too lost. Watching both women perform I think, in a political race, Fiorina is actually stronger.
Fiorina is (or was) a moderate Republican, so strong on financial controls and low taxes, very strong on women’s rights (often seen as unusual for any Republican), a very good debater, and surprisingly smart (which is often refreshing in a politician).
As we get over our indulgences this week, let’s talk about Carly Fiorina for President.
Most of Us Live in the Middle
Watching U.S. politics is like watching tennis being played by two very uncoordinated and mentally challenged players, each trying to smash the ball over the net from the base line but neither capable of actually hitting the ball.
A moderate tends to hit more of us where we actually live and Fiorina is a moderate Republican. This means she’ll likely seem far more reasonable in her positions and likely help pull the Republican party, through the primary process, more toward the more reasonable middle. That could give them a stronger chance of winning since, historically, the party that has the most trouble finding the middle loses.
Debates Will Be More Fun
Often, watching political debates is like watching food cool. Debates aren’t very interesting and neither side actually listens to the other because the parties stink at debating. They each recite their prepared lines and don’t seem to even hear what the other one says.
Fiorina is very good on her feet and she is strong presenter. I’ve generally felt that with a little product focus, she could have been far more like Steve Jobs than anyone else I’ve seen on stage. That means she could be very successful in debates and provide a sharp contrast to the other players, who often can’t even seem to remember their primary platforms.
I’d pay good money to see her debate either Sarah Palin or Hillary Clinton. The first would be really entertaining; the second would be fascinating to watch.
Gets the Importance of Tech
President Obama was supposed to be the “tech president,” but turned out to just understand how to get good people who could do great election analytics. When it came to understanding the importance of the industry, or even how to use technology successfully in government, he turned out to be as clueless as his predecessors.
Fiorina spent her life working for tech companies and she gets the global importance of this industry and how important it is for it to stay in the U.S. She’d likely help advocate leadership in everything from self-driving cars to Maglev trains. I’ll bet she’d also champion new and interesting weapons systems, though there’d be some risk that some of them might not work. But in running, she’d likely help force the other candidates to look at the tech market more seriously and at least talk about protecting it more vigorously.
Can She Win?
These are really long odds. Her history at HP works against her, as does her lack of political experience. This last is the more problematic because government doesn’t work like business. You can’t just order Congress around and have them do what you want, even if your party controls it (President Obama showcased this in the short two years his party controlled Congress and didn’t progress much). So even if she did win, and she could easily be the smartest person on the ticket, she doesn’t have the experience to do the job. I wonder if she’d even really want it once she got it. She might make an interesting vice president, if she can capture enough votes and then, next cycle, who knows?
Wrapping Up: Fiorina for President
Because Fiorina is smart and a moderate, I think her running for president will improve, and certainly make far more interesting, the debates and town halls that surround the election process. I think it is unlikely that she could get elected and very unlikely that she could actually do the job if she were, largely because she has no real political experience. But I also think she’d make a stronger VP than what we otherwise might get, so I’m pleased that she is thinking of running.
Sadly, we could actually do worse for president -- something that has already been demonstrated several times over the last two decades.
Rob Enderle is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. With over 30 years’ experience in emerging technologies, he has provided regional and global companies with guidance in how to better target customer needs; create new business opportunities; anticipate technology changes; select vendors and products; and present their products in the best possible light. Rob covers the technology industry broadly. Before founding the Enderle Group, Rob was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group, and held senior positions at IBM and ROLM. Follow Rob on Twitter @enderle, on Facebook and on Google+