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Carly Fiorina comes out of GOP debate with fresh momentum

Carly Fiorina will hit the campaign trail with fresh momentum, following a break-out performance in Thursday's happy hour debate.
Carly Fiorina, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, speaks to the media in the spin area after a televised forum ahead of the first Republican presidential debate (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty).
Carly Fiorina, former chairman and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Co. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, speaks to the media in the spin area after a televised forum ahead of the first Republican presidential debate at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015.  

Carly Fiorina hit the campaign trail with fresh confidence Friday following a breakout performance in Fox News' so-called "happy hour" debate -- a smaller event that proceeded the larger Republican presidential primary debate during prime-time.

The former Hewlett-Packard CEO will speak in Atlanta, Georgia, at the RedState Gathering Friday afternoon before preparing to head to South Carolina, California, Nevada, and Iowa in the coming weeks.

“A lot of people discovered that I can win this debate, a lot of people discovered that I can do this job,” Fiorina said on Friday on msnbc's "Morning Joe."

Despite low polling that kept her out of the main event, Fiorina stood out Thursday as strong, articulate and prepared, Ohio Republicans told msnbc. Fox News seemed to agree, airing a clip of her performance during the more highly-watched second debate. On Friday, Fiorina's campaign told msnbc that it aims to keep building on her success.

“With the lowest name ID in the field, it's important to keep introducing her to voters and letting them see that she is a true conservative ready to challenge the status quo,” deputy campaign manager Sarah Isgur Flores said.

RELATED: Fiorina emerges as fan favorite after ‘happy hour’ debate

The most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll actually showed Fiorina with the third-lowest name recognition in the field -- fewer people said they weren't sure who Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore were -- but a plurality of voters, 36%, said they didn't know who she was. That's more than the 33% who said they could see themselves supporting her.

Still, Google data showed Fiorina sparking significant interest during the “happy hour” debate. She briefly overtook Donald Trump in terms of search interest toward the end of the first debate, too.

In the months since she announced her candidacy, Fiorina has increased her name recognition from 36% to 58%, thanks in part to relentless campaigning in early voting states and an ambitious schedule. At events across the country over the last few months, crowds who weren't familiar with her told msnbc they were impressed. It's a response that was echoed by attendees at a watch party in Cleveland.

“They all reflected our values, hopes, and interests, but I particularly felt Carly Fiorina did the best,” Nadine Klimzak told msnbc. "I'm strongly considering her."

Klimzak and a half-dozen others told msnbc that Fiorina won the first debate, while others said she'd won the whole night. 

Fiorina, who has come under fire for thousands of layoffs during her tenure as CEO of Hewlett-Packard, defended her record Friday on "Morning Joe," telling co-host Willie Geist that the company grew stronger under her watch despite hard economic conditions. "In tough times like that, yeah, sometimes tough calls are necessary," she said.

"Many of our competitors don't even exist anymore," she added. "And yep, I was fired during a boardroom brawl. I said it from the moment I was fired: You know why I was fired? Because when you lead, you challenge the status quo. And when you challenge the status quo, you make enemies."