On Monday, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina joined the growing roster of Republicans running for President in 2016, and is aiming to stand out from the crowd by positioning herself as the conservative alternative to Hillary Clinton.
“If Hillary Clinton were to face a female nominee, there are a whole set of things that she won’t be able to talk about,” Fiorina told reporters mid-April. “She won’t be able to talk about being the first woman president. She won’t be able to talk about a war on women without being challenged. She won’t be able to play the gender card.”
She later told Bloomberg that her candidacy “renders the Democratic ‘war on women’ baloney sort of neutral. It will be definitely harder for her to run against a woman. … because the political rhetoric that she talks about will be far more difficult for her to make credible.”
Yet the so-called “War on Women” advocates cite is about the policies pushed by the Republican Party just as much as the sexist tone of many of its politicians and pundits. And on several key policy questions, Fiorina has staked out positions out of line with the majority of women voters.
By some estimates, nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers and three-quarters of low-wage workers are women. A raise in the federal minimum wage would benefit millions of working women and help close the persistent gender pay gap, and a vast majority — 80 percent — of women favor such a pay hike.
Yet Fiorina has repeatedly opposed a raise. “The sad truth is that raising the minimum wage will hurt those who are looking for entry-level jobs,” she said during a panel hosted, ironically, by the Clinton Foundation.
At this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Fiorina argued again against a minimum wage hike by arguing — incorrectly — that 62 percent of minimum wage workers are still in high school, when the real number is closer to a third.
In speeches and appearances this year leading up to her campaign announcement, Fiorina has strongly opposed access to abortion and written off increasing restrictions on access to birth control. At CPAC, she told the crowd that the Supreme Court ruling last year that allowed employers to deny insurance coverage for contraception did not negatively impact women, despite evidence that the decision could severely impact the ability of low-income women workers to afford the reproductive health care they need. More than two-thirds of polled women voters, and a majority of Catholics, disagree with Fiorina, and say private corporations should not be allowed to deny their workers insurance that covers birth control.
Seventy percent of women cite being paid less than men for the same work as a big problem, with half saying that it’s a major problem. Two-thirds said the U.S. needs better laws to help women juggle work and family.
Though Fiorina has acknowledged the existence of the gender pay gap, she lays the blame for it on “unions, government bureaucracies, the very constituencies that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party represent” and opposes the passage of legislation like the Paycheck Fairness Act that would make it easier for women to discover and challenge pay discrimination.
She’s written that the legislation “would hurt female employees,” yet studies have shown that closing the gender pay gap would cut the poverty rate in half for working women.
Fiorina’s first political race ended in a decisive loss to long-time California Senator Barbara Boxer in 2010 — a year in which Republicans across the country swept Democrats out of office. Boxer’s campaign triumphed, according to the LA Times, by portraying Fiorina as “a heartless corporate titan who had laid off workers and shipped jobs abroad.” A similar characterization of Mitt Romney, another wealthy CEO who oversaw layoffs and outsourcing, help tank his bid for the White House in 2012, raising questions about Fiorina’s prospects in 2016.