Carly Fiorina: The GOP’s weapon against Hillary Clinton?

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by Patricia Sellers,

from Fortune Magazine,

The GOP is using the former HP CEO Carly Fiorina to attack Hillary Clinton. Fiorina loves a good fight—so much that she really could run for President.

s Carly Fiorina the dark horse candidate in the GOP race for President?

That’s what Megyn Kelly proclaimed on Fox News this week, after the former Hewlett-Packard HPQ -0.05% CEO rallied the Republicans at the Freedom Summit in Iowa and earned rave reviews there. “We must win in 2016,” Fiorina said in an interview on The Kelly File, sounding very much like a candidate. “I don’t think this country can endure four years of Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren.”

Fiorina, 60, hasn’t yet announced she’s running, but as she told Kelly on Monday, “it is something that I’m giving very serious consideration to.” We bet she’ll run…because whatever the challenge she’s faced, Carly possesses more ambition than she first lets on.

Fortune knows Fiorina well. She was on the cover of the very first Fortune Most Powerful Women issue, in 1998, when she had had only one story written about her, in Investor’s Business Daily. At the time, she was a 44-year-old hotshot at Lucent Technologies. She had risen from entry-level sales to the very top of Lucent’s largest division, Global Services, and she had closely advised then-CEO Rich McGinn on the company’s IPO, which was a whopping success. (Ah yes, the gogo days of telecom!)

“My strength is my strength, but it also can be a weakness,” Fiorina once admitted to me, explaining that her style too often worked against her. Granted, she’s suffered the unduly harsh judgement (that narrower band of acceptable behavior) that cripples too many high-flying women leaders. But Fiorina has always struggled to channel her fierce ambition. Passionate in every pursuit and often prickly toward her doubters.

Fiorina moved on advise John McCain in his 2008 Presidential bid, and then she waged a couple battles of her own. She fought off breast cancer in 2009. A year later, she ran against veteran Barbara Boxer to represent California in the U.S. Senate, and she lost.

Now, Fiorina says, she’s interested in running for President because the federal government needs fixing. If—or when—she begins her official campaign, there will be no shortage of ways to attack Fiorina—her failed Senate bid, her ouster from HP, her leadership style—but she’s worth watching because she’s knows how to fight, and she enjoys it.

And for the GOP, she’s already proving herself to be a handy weapon against Hillary Clinton. “Like Hillary Clinton, I too have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles around the globe,” Fiorina said at the Freedom Summit. “But unlike her, I have actually accomplished something. Mrs. Clinton, flying is an activity not an accomplishment.” Ouch! That’s hardly fair or realistic, but we can fantasize: Wouldn’t Carly vs. Hillary be fun?

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