Carly Fiorina Wins Buzz After 'Happy Hour' Debate

Carrie Dann
Carly Fiorina
Getty Images

Seven Republicans shared a debate stage derided as "the kiddie table" Thursday night, relegated to a pre-primetime show due to middling poll numbers.

But one candidate—former HP head Carly Fiorina—emerged from the relatively low-key contest with significant buzz after taking on not only Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton by name, but even her own party.

Fiorina, who polled at just an average of 1.3 percent in FOX's tally of five recent national surveys, was praised by observers on her fluid delivery of lines on Iran, illegal immigration and Washington gridlock.

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"We need a nominee who is going to throw every punch, not pull punches, and someone who cannot stumble before he even gets in the ring," she said. "I am not a member of the political class. I am a conservative."

And she took aim at GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, who reportedly spoke by phone with Bill Clinton shortly before he jumped into the presidential race.

"I didn't get a phone call from Bill Clinton before I jumped in the race," she said. "Any of you get a phone call from Bill Clinton? I didn't. Maybe it's because I haven't given money to the Foundation or donated to his wife's Senate campaign." (Fiorina, however, did participate at a Clinton Foundation event with Bill Clinton in 2014.)

The performance won her accolades from influential conservatives on Twitter and on cable.

Tammy Bruce tweet

Newt Gingrich tweet

Fox News tweet

Search calculator Google Trends also showed a significant spike in interest in Fiorina, the only Republican woman in the 2016 race.

It's not clear that Fiorina will have staying power. Her record as HP chief is marred by major layoffs, and her 2010 Senate run in California ended with a resounding defeat.

The Democratic National Committee took aim at her rocky tenure at HP late Thursday, saying, "Here's Carly Fiorina's record on negotiations—she negotiated a merger with Compaq where 30,000 HP employees lost their jobs. Then she negotiated a $40 million golden parachute after she was fired. Here's Carly Fiorina's policy record: an affinity for sending American jobs overseas."