Fiorina marches on seeking votes amid New Hampshire’s snow

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BOW, N.H. Carly Fiorina soldiered on in New Hampshire Saturday, telling supporters of her campaign for the Republican presidential nomination to remain optimistic, even after low poll numbers took her out of the prime-time debate Thursday night.

“When I launched my campaign for the presidency on May 4, 2015, I was 17 out of 16 candidates, because literally no one had ever heard of my name,” the former chief executive of computer maker Hewlett-Packard said at the town hall-style meeting. “Because no one knew who I was, I hadn’t been in politics all my life, I wasn’t a celebrity, the pollsters wouldn’t even ask for my name. Everyone kind of wrote me off: ‘She can’t do this.’”

She credited her early rise in voter surveys partly to those people from New Hampshire who ventured out to listen to her speak and choosing to support her. But she also made a strong showing in the second GOP debate, in September, which delivered a temporary boost and put her in second place behind only Donald Trump in the Granite State by early October, according to an average of polls tracked by

It didn’t last long, however. Her support has ebbed to 3.8 percent in the tracking data, down from the October peak of about 14 percent and ranking her eighth out of 11. Debate sponsors relegated Fiorina to the undercard forum on Thursday, along with Senator Rand Paul of Tennessee, who chose to boycott the event.

Fiorina has pressed her campaign, however, telling the audience in Bow that she’s doing well.

“I’m tied with a bunch of governors who have been in politics all their lives, who have spent tens of millions of dollars on television here in New Hampshire,” she said to the crowd, which numbered about 100 people and included just a few reporters. By comparison, a Trump rally brought several hundred supporters through blinding snow to watch him in Portsmouth, along with a bleachers full of reporters and video camera operators.

Fiorina said she doesn’t put much stock in poll numbers or whether she gets to participate in the main debate.

“In this election season so far, the media thinks it’s kind of its job to tell you who to look at on which stage and who you get to see on the TV over and over and who you don’t see much of,” she said, in an apparent reference to news coverage of Trump, the billionaire former reality TV star. “The establishment wants to get this election over before the voting even starts.”

She urged voters to think for themselves and not be swayed by media or establishment influences.

As she has in previous forums, Fiorina spoke about the scandal over long waits for doctor visits at the Department of Veteran Affairs in 2014 and her plan to reduce the labyrinthian U.S. tax code to three pages.

On foreign policy and national security, Fiorina noted that she knows the leaders of many ally countries personally and once led the advisory board of the Central Intelligence Agency. She declared that she had more foreign policy experience than anyone running.

The issues took on fresh urgency during the campaign following the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, along with the intensifying civil war in Syria and the fight against Islamic State forces in Iraq. Rivals such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have gained in the polls as a result. The influential New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper endorsed Christie, citing his record of prosecuting terrorism suspects among other reasons.

Fiorina, the only Republican woman in the race, told the crowd that she was the candidate who could beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, should the former First Lady become the Democratic nominee.

“Hillary Clinton has gotten every single foreign policy challenge wrong,” Fiorina said, including her response to the 2012 attack on a U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya, in which Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died.

While few of those in attendance asked Fiorina questions, some were openly supportive. At one point, Chichester resident Kathy Holmes cheered her as “Carly Thatcher,” a reference to former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a conservative icon. Yet afterward, Holmes said she supports one of Fiorina’s rivals, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, as her first choice.

Holmes said she admires Fiorina’s positions on conservative subjects and the way she answered questions at the forum.

“I don’t think there’s anybody smarter than her,” Holmes said, adding that she sees Fiorina as more genuine than most candidates. The former executive doesn’t just say what supporters want to hear, Holmes said.

“I don’t know why, after she got her bump in the polls, why that’s dwindling,” Holmes said. “She shined in that undercard debate.”

Holmes said she hopes Fiorina will be the next vice president or secretary of state role, should the Republican nominee win in November.