Fiorina Flops Out of the Gate

Carly Fiorina is among the most high profile Republican Senate recruits in the country for the next cycle.


Carly Fiorina is among the most high profile Republican Senate recruits in the country for the next cycle. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO was constantly on television last year as a surrogate for John McCain's presidential campaign (until she was removed from that post for some comments that the campaign probably didn't approve, that is). Her connections from the campaign, as well as her enormous personal wealth, would allow her to field a nation-wide network of donors and consultants to give the GOP its first shot at the perennially safe Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). That's why it is so surprising that Fiorina's first step toward that campaign appears to be a flop according to consultants on both sides of the aisle. Fiorina, who is still in the exploratory stage of her campaign, launched a website last week - www.carlyforcalifornia.com. Set against a pink background, the entire site consists of a flash introduction that reads: "It's day & night... It's dogs & cats ... It's good & bad... It's Carly vs. Boxer "... Coming soon?" The only links on the page are to contribute or enter in your email address for future updates, presumably for when she announces her campaign. The site also links to Fiorina's Twitter and Facebook accounts. To many onlookers, the website isn't up to snuff. The San Jose Mercury News called it "Amateur Hour" and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee quickly launched a site mocking it. Republican consultants are taking some shots - even on the record. Republican online media consultant Douglas Lorenz said the site says nothing of Fiorina's platform. "I don’t see anything here anywhere that gives any indication of what her message is." Lorenz, who works for Russo Marsh and Rogers in Sacramento, said the first step of a high profile candidate like Fiorina's campaign must be carefully orchestrated because voters already have notions about the candiate. "You have to know what message you are putting forth," he said. "That takes polling, focus groups, etc. [The Fiorina camp] has to know the message and I don't think anybody has heard that yet." Another GOP online media consultant, who preferred to remain anonymous, added that Fiorina missed an important opportunity with the site. "You can only make a first impression once and it doesn't look like she got off to the right start," the consultant said. The website, the consultant added, "is pretty light and it's allowing reporters and activists focused on the race to pick it a part. It's getting a lot of attention but it's not good attention." There is the possibility that Fiorinia's site was intended to fly under the radar and collect supporters' information until her official announcement. She didn't, for example, take out any Google ads. Googling "Carly Fiorina for Senate" doesn't result in a link to her website, so the site is practically hidden. If that was the intention, it was blown by the DSCC's mocking website. Efforts to reach Fiorina's team were unsuccessful. Still, the GOP consultant said the site probably should have included a video welcome message from Fiorina and it should be updated frequently. Thomas Gensemer, the managing partner of Blue State Digital, the large Democratic online media firm, agreed. "An introductory video, some content on her policy positions, and a blog are things that should be included from the start and are, technically, very easy," he said. Notably, Gensemer wasn't as critical of Fiorina's website as some Republican consultants. Email collection, which Fiorina's website includes, "is still the most powerful online organizing tool and it's good to be capturing names from the very start," he said.At least one Republican consultant stood up for the website. John Brabender of Brabender Cox, a GOP media firm, said the site attempts to show that Fiorina "is a different type of candidate." "They are trying to grab attention," he said. Brabender also noted one side effect of all of the Democratic attacks: Lots of traffic for Fiorina's site. Still, Democrats appear eager to poke fun at the site because of Fiorina's profile. Ben Schaffer, the president of Media Mezcla, a Democratic online media firm, immediately noted "the absurdity that is her website.""Fiorina parallels her campaign to the eternal struggle between cats and dogs," he went on. "She also seems to be suggesting that if you like cats and night then move along, you're probably a Democrat."Jeremy P. Jacobs is the staff writer at Politics. He can be reached at jjacobs@politicsmagazine.com


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