Girls Gone Wild: The Curious Campaigns of Meg and Carly

Judy Lloyd
President of Altamont Strategies

The curious campaigns of Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina have been a topic of discussion among women’s organizations and GOP activists for several weeks. Both were prominent at this weekend at the California Republican Party Convention in Santa Clara, where people wonder what’s more relevant – tactics or talk?

I don’t think women are the best fit in every case, nor do I back a woman only because she is female. Unlike Democrat primaries where they heavily recruit women, gender works against women in GOP primaries. Women are portrayed as less ideological and challenged at the bargaining table. This tactical strategy has been used dozens of times to convince Republican voters that women aren’t prepared.

In the case of Meg and Carly, this strategy will backfire as both have business credentials that are far and above most who have ever sought the offices of Governor and United States Senator.

Meg Whitman began the weekend with Mitt Romney at dinner on Friday night. I’m always awe-struck by how down to earth Meg is – she is a remarkable business leader who grew eBay from start up to the world’s largest online marketplace creating countless jobs for small business people. Yet, her campaign style is down to earth. She’s always happy to tell her story.

Meg Talk: Friday’s dinner boasted a refreshed Meg Whitman – one who seems at the top of her game as she introduced her first boss at Bain & Company, Mitt Romney. Meg was calm, deliberate and confident. She has the will, organization and power to be our next Governor. Romney was articulate, gracious and accessible. Maybe because it was his birthday – which begs the question – why on earth would anyone spend their birthday with the California Republican Party? He believes in Meg Whitman.

Meg Tactics: Whitman’s campaign distributed CD videos of Poizner snafus on taxes. You can’t turn on your television without seeing these clever, slapstick commercials. Still, it’s a good bunch of ads, so why not reinforce the message for those CRP delegates who may not have seen them.

Carly Fiorina’s day in the sun was on Saturday. The most remarkable thing I observed was the number of “Carly” chanters on site – young and old – she has a fired up organization – and it energizes her candidacy.

I observed one peculiar moment at a private meeting. Tom Campbell was exiting as Carly entered. She looked him straight in the eye and said “Hi Tom – Carly Fiorina – nice to meet you.”

Carly Talk: To say that Carly Fiorina’s speech-in-the-round at lunch was a rock star moment would be an understatement. The crescendo began with the new 8 minute “Hot Air” movie where Barbara Boxer’s head is morphed into a hot air balloon. This ad is genius and you can view it here. Carly’s speech was spectacular and ended with Van Halen’s “Jump”. Trust me, people were on their feet. It was one of the most epic GOP Convention moments ever.

Carly Tactics: Well, it wouldn’t be Carly at a GOP Convention without a little “Demon Sheep”. Don’t’ get me wrong – I love Tom Campbell and think he is among the smartest people in the country, but the hologram image of Tom’s head morphing into the dreaded Demon Sheep was both controversial and eye-catching. This image mixed with the Barbara Boxer “hot air” movie will continue to be media dominant.

Most people who know me are aware of how highly I think of Meg and Carly – but I made my choice to support them not because they are women. They are achievers and innovators. Say what you want about tactics and talk. These women are making serious runs because their skills at the negotiating table and their passion for public policy has prepared them as visionaries to make their case, prepare for battle, and move forward. Tactically, they are ready. The primary is just a bump in the road on the way to achievement of another milestone for these remarkable women.

Side Note: When I first got to Convention, I ran into a guy dressed in the chicken suit with his colleagues in the elevator. Their placards suggested that Meg was “chicken” to debate. I asked if they were aware that she and Steve Poizner were debating on Monday. A very young stalwart looked at me and said “Well, we don’t know anything about that. We’re just getting paid to do this today.”

Don’t you love politics?

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