CHARLESTON, South Carolina – Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina received standing ovations Tuesday during her first campaign visit since she shot up in the polls.
“As people get to know me and understand who I am and what I’ll do, they tend to support me,” Fiorina told reporters after her first event since a CNN/ORC poll released after last week's GOP debate found her strong performance had boosted her standing to 15%, putting her in second place behind Donald Trump.
The Fiorina campaign called the three-day, seven-city stint through South Carolina business as usual – “We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing -- traveling the country, introducing Carly to voters" the campaign told msnbc – but this was still a victory lap of sorts after the former Hewlett Packard executive spent months campaigning relentlessly as a largely unknown figure in a crowded race.
An email blast to reporters Tuesday morning suggested Fiorina's campaign is hardly sanguine about its current standing. Campaign spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores took aim at Trump and other Fiorina critics who have come out of the woodwork since the debate pushed her into the forefront of the GOP’s crowded primary.
Flores took particular aim at critics who have scrutinized Fiorina for comments she made at the debate about anti-Planned Parenthood videos released by the anti-abortion organization Center for Medical Progress. The campaign pointed to the third video released by the CMP, arguing it supports Fiorina's contention at the debate that it depicted “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says, 'We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.'”
Left unsaid was the fact that the CMP videos include stock footage provided by another anti-abortion group that hasn't yet been sourced to what the group says is an abortion. Critics say it's most likely a fetus from a miscarriage, because of the condition of the fetus. The Fiorina’s campaign doesn't try to explain the disparity, instead pointing to conservative media outlet The Federalist, which argues it's a justified illustration.
The first campaign event of the day focused on foreign policy, where Fiorina voiced much of the same national security agenda she voiced in the debates -- ignore Iran, bolster the relationship with Israel, and intimidate Russia with shows of military force. Though voters may have heard these views before, she still got big cheers.
At the event and in Flores’ email, the campaign pushed back against the idea that Fiorina's political liabilities are a threat to her momentum; both the candidate and campaign emphatically defended her business record, which has come under significant attack since Fiorina shot to the top of the GOP pack.
“I’ll run on that record all day long,” the former Hewlett Packard CEO -- who was famously fired -- told reporters.
In the email blast, Flores sought to discredit one of her most vocal critics, Yale University’s Jeffrey Sonnefeld.
“For over a decade, this guy's entire career has been predicated on criticizing Carly's. Mind you, he's never stepped into the arena as a CEO himself or even run a business. But he does seem to love going on TV,” Flores writes in part. “I'll give Sonnenfeld this: He would know something about getting fired. Of course, his was for vandalism of school property while he was at Emory."
Sonnefeld was fired over accusations of vandalism; he sued the university for wrongful termination and the parties later settled. A video of the supposed vandalism reportedly shows Sonnefeld kicking walls, the New York Times reported.