SIMI VALLEY, California – For the second time in two months, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina stole the spotlight during a Republican presidential debate.
At the second prime-time Republican debate, held here at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Wednesday night, Fiorina mixed sharply worded conservative policy proposals with a few well-placed one-liners in a debate performance that was strongly received by Republican pundits and voters. Multiple outlets and pundits declared her the night’s winner.
Fiorina landed a huge early applause line when she called for Democrats to watch Planned Parenthood procedures preserving parts of aborted fetuses for research. She said Republicans should pass a spending bill to cut the organization’s funding, even if it means a veto from President Barack Obama and leads to a shutdown of the federal government.
“I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, to watch these tapes. Watch 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.’ This is about the character of our nation. If we will not stand up and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us!” Fiorina said, drawing raucous applause.
The debate crowd also roared when Fiorina responded to front-runner Donald Trump’s recent comments to Rolling Stone, in which he said of Fiorina: “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?” Trump has since said he was referring to Fiorina’s “persona,” not her face.
“It’s interesting to me. Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly in what Mr. Bush said,” Fiorina said, referring to Trump’s criticism of comments made by GOP presidential rival Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, about Planned Parenthood.
“I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”
According to data provided by Twitter, Fiorina had the top two debate moments and gained the most followers during the debate. And according to Facebook, the top moment of the debate on the social network came when she confronted Trump.
Even representatives for other campaigns agreed that the former CEO had a notably strong night.
“I thought Carly had some good answers, particularly early,” former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Missouri), who is advising the presidential campaign of Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, told Business Insider.
Robert O’Brien, a senior adviser to Walker, added: “I thought Carly did well. I thought Ted Cruz really dominated Bush on the Supreme Court question. I don’t think they had the consistent performance that Scott had through the debate, but I think Carly had some good early answers.”
Though Walker’s surrogates and those from rival campaigns lined the spin room Wednesday night, Fiorina’s campaign defied the typical protocol. The campaign did not deploy any surrogates to the spin room after the debate, and Fiorina did not make an appearance.
After all, she didn’t really need to spin her performance.
As one of her advisers said: “Mic drop.”
Brett LoGiurato contributed reporting.