MEREDITH — "It is my calling to return this nation to a citizen government," Carly Fiorina told a crowd that stretched the capacity of the Wicwas Grange to its limits on Thursday evening, proclaiming that "it is time to take our future back. It is time to take our politics back. It is time to take our government back. Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to take our country back."
Casting herself as "conservative, outsider, leader," Fiorina, the former chief executive officer of Hewlett Packard Company, has pursued a campaign promising to wrest power from the "professional political class and special interests that control it" and return it to the people. Three times during her appearance at the Grange he repeated the refrain "it is time to take our country back."
"It's not quick and easy," Fiorina acknowledged. "It's hard work. But, I'm prepared to do the heavy lifting." She outlined a "blueprint," consisting of a half-dozen priorities. She would begin by shrinking the 73,000 pages of the tax code to three, lower all tax rates and introduce a flat tax for individuals and corporations. Next she would require all federal departments and agencies to justify every dollar of expenditure applying "zero-based" budgeting. She would repeal Obamacare a replace it with a "common sense" health care system that would lower costs and improve quality. She would prohibit abortion after five months and deny funding to Planned Parenthood. Finally, Fiorina would secure the borders and reform the immigration system while denying a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
"We can do all these things," Fiorina said. "Every problem we have can be solved. All our wounds can be healed." She said that she would compel Congress to act to leveraging the power of citizens by speaking from the Oval Office, asking people if they want a three-page tax code, then saying "take out your smart phones, and press one for yes and two for no."
"We need a president who understands what leadership is," Fiorina insisted, adding that the "the highest calling of a leader is to unlock potential of others."
When Fiorina invited questions from the floor, Holly Tetreault, a Blue Star Mother from Meredith, changed the mood by challenging her — "mother-to-mother" — to restore the designation of POW/MIA, which was replaced by the less forthright term Missing/Capture in 2000, during the first 100 days of her presidency. "I am challenging you to show the world that you will be the woman who had the courage that the men didn't have," Tetreault said.
"I accept," Fiorina replied, as the two embraced amid thunderous applause.
After rising in the polls in September following strong showings in the first two televised debates, Fiorina has back among the also-rans. In a poll of New Hampshire voters released this week Public Policy Polling placed her with 4 percent of the vote. Headlines asking "What Happened to Carly Fiorina?" have appeared more than once in last several months.
Pundits have suggested that by repeatedly touting her international travels and relationships with foreign leaders, including Vladimir Putin, Benjamin Netanyahu and King Abdullah II of Jordan, she has compromised her claim to be an "outsider." Since October, Fiorina has struggled to capture significant attention from the media. The super PAC, CARLY for America, which is funding and managing much of her campaign, only began purchasing television time after her polling numbers fell to single digits. She stoutly defends her record at Hewlett Packard Company, but the performance of the firm under her leadership casts doubt on the value of her tenure to her campaign.
Undaunted, Fiorina said that when she announced her candidacy she was 17th in a field of 16.
"New Hampshire has listened to me and carried me this far," she said. "I hope you are going to carry me all the way."