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How Carly Fiorina Won the Undercard Debate

January 15, 2016, 12:30 AM UTC
Carly Fiorina
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - JANUARY 14: Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina participates in the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center on January 14, 2016 in North Charleston, South Carolina. The sixth Republican debate is held in two parts, one main debate for the top seven candidates, and another for three other candidates lower in the current polls. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Photograph by Scott Olson—Getty Images

Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina punched her way out of an undercard debate before. On Thursday, she tried to do it again.

After making her way onto the main debate stage in September thanks in part to a strong performance, Fiorina found herself at the undercard again, and once again she brought sharp elbows and sharper cracks to get noticed.

Fiorina, who spoke first, began the debate with gracious words for former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, noting that both had won the Iowa caucuses. Then she turned her sights on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Given that few people will tune into the undercard debate, which aired at 6 p.m. Eastern, a well-delivered zinger like this getting tweeted and retweeted may be the only takeaway most people have, so Fiorina’s ability to deliver them with verve makes her as close to a winner as it will have.

Later in the debate, Fiorina trained her fire on Republican front-runner Donald Trump, calling him the “Kim Kardashian of American politics” and mocking his praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Despite Donald Trump’s bromance with Vladimir Putin, Vladimir Putin and Russia are our adversary,” Fiorina said.

And when the audience booed at the moderators for a question which noted that the majority of Americans favor background checks for gun purchases, Fiorina won the audience with a quick aside: “We all believe the poll data all the time, don’t we?”

Still, Fiorina was not the only one to score with a one-liner at the debate. When the debate moderators hit Santorum with a buzzer for going over his time, he joked about Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who chose to sit out the undercard.

“I know I’m out of time but I’m gonna take some of Rand Paul’s time,” he said.

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