At Saturday’s Iowa Freedom Summit, the men in the ever-widening pool of potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates used their speeches to call for the best ways to crush Obamacare and immigration reform. But the women focused on one target: the likely 2016 Democratic standard bearer, Hillary Clinton.
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, though relatively unknown in a field of thunderous voices, is actively exploring a 2016 run – and in Iowa she made it clear she’d be running as the anti-Hillary.
“Like Hillary Clinton, I too, have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles around the globe,” Fiorina said of the former secretary of state, drawing cheers. “But unlike her, I have actually accomplished something. Mrs. Clinton, flying is an activity not an accomplishment.”Only six of 24 speakers at the event were women – and none of them have made waves as big as their male counterparts like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. (Missing from the event were notable 2016ers former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.)
Fiorina lost the only political campaign she’s run so far when she challenged Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California in 2010. But she made headlines last summer when she launched a Super PAC, Unlocking Potential Project, aimed at engaging women and closing the gender gap for the Republican party.
But in her speech at Iowa’s crowded Hoyt Sherman Place, it wasn’t about raising women, it was about tearing one woman down.
Sneaking Benghazi into her address (another topic glazed over by the male candidates who took the stage) Fiorina said: ”Unlike Hillary Clinton, I know what difference it makes that our ambassador to Libya and three other brave Americans were killed in a deliberate terrorist attack on the anniversary of 9/11.”
Sarah Palin joined Fiorina in the Hillary-hating. The 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, who recently said that she’s “seriously interested” in running for president in 2016, delivered a bizarre and often incoherent speech, but one aspect was clear: she’s got her sights on Hillary.
Related: GOP hopefuls make their case in Iowa
“I’m ready for Hillary, are you? Are you coming?” Palin said, raising a Time magazine from last year with a headline “Can Anyone Stop Hillary.”
Palin said she doesn’t feel there’s a rush to make a decision about 2016. Fiorina might have an opinion about whether Palin runs too, whether they compete for the party’s 2016 nomination or not. Back in 2008 as one of John McCain’s economic advisers, Fiorina said that Palin, McCain’s VP pick, would not be qualified to be CEO of a corporation like Hewlett-Packard. She tried to salvage her comments on msnbc.
Longtime Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway also dug into Hillary Clinton at the Freedom Summit. “Don’t worry about being called mean. Let’s talk about Hillary Clinton,” she said. “Hillary Clinton is the second most influential person in her own household. I would say Hillary Clinton has the wrong vision for America, but I don’t know what it is.”
Tennessee GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn also jumped on the bandwagon, mocking several TV networks for their coverage of Clinton. “ABC: All About Clinton network; NBC: Nothing But Clinton; CNN: Clinton News Network; CBS - - just think about it!” Translation: Clinton b.s.,” she said.
For their part, Clinton allies say the attacks are a sign Republicans may feel threatened. “Republicans are rattled by the energy and excitement shown by Americans across the country for Hillary Clinton’s potential candidacy and her vision for our future,” communications director Adrienne Elrod of Correct The Record said in statement. ”It is clear Republicans have nothing of substance to say and that they’d like nothing more than to distract from the GOP’s disunity.”
Correction: A previous version of this story inaccurately stated that the Unlocking Potential Project aims to teach male Republican counterparts how best to speak to women.