GOP 2016: What Carly Fiorina's Failed Senate Race Says About Her Presidential Campaign

As Carly Fiorina gains increased media attention and ramps up her presidential campaign after her strong performance in the second Republican debate last week, she may still be struggling to overcome the obstacles that led to her defeat the only previous time she sought elected office.

While Fiorina has billed herself as an "outsider" candidate, she does have political experience -- she just wasn’t successful. Her 2010 campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer in California saw fierce campaigning (she’s often remembered for the “demon sheep” ad) and pressure on Fiorina to defend her business record before the former Hewlett-Packard CEO eventually lost.

That one campaign does not make her a political insider like establishment candidates who have built careers in elected office, according to Republican strategists, but they say it could give Fiorina knowledge about her weak spots and where she’ll need to improve this time around.

During her 2010 campaign, Fiorina was hit hard by ads from Boxer that criticized her laying off of 30,000 employees at Hewlett-Packard, as well as Fiorina’s own firing when the company's stock price dropped.

Some strategists point to her strong communication skills in the debate and in interviews, saying she is doing a better job of explaining her record now than she did in 2010.

“She’s been doing much better,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who worked on the 2008 McCain-Palin campaign. “But herein lies the problem that Carly has. She is trying to explain this to a mass audience, and that is very difficult. ... What she’s talking about takes a little bit of business acumen. Everyone wants business experience, but it’s tough to explain that in soundbites.”

“If she can continue to demonstrate authenticity in other aspects of her life, which she’s been doing with her cancer story and her daughter [her stepdaughter died after a struggle with drug addiction], then people might empathize and will believe her more” about her business record, O’Connell said.

Read more from Abigail Abrams at International Business Times 

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Analysis & Political Strategy