IDAHO FALLS — One of the Republican Party’s “political outsider” presidential hopefuls touched down in Idaho Falls looking to win over voters and possibly secure a donation from the state’s most prominent political donor.
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina spoke to a packed crowd in the conference center at Melaleuca’s new headquarters Wednesday.
Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot told the crowd, made up in large part of Melaleuca employees, that he had met with Fiorina and been impressed with with her ideas. VanderSloot served as one of Mitt Romney’s finance co-chairmen during his 2012 presidential campaign.
“We need someone who can lead,” he said.
The GOP’s only female presidential contender started her pitch by relating lessons she said she learned by running a microfinance charity that gives small loans to poor business owners in developing nations.
When she went to visit the slums of New Delhi, India, she expected a grim scene.
“Considering the desperate circumstances in which they lived, I expected they would look pretty desperate,” Fiorina said.
But she said they were “hopeful,” “determined” and “focused” because they were building businesses and taking control of their lives.
“We had said to them, ‘You have potential,’ ” she said.
Fiorina, who has never held elected office, chalked up stagnant U.S. living standards and increasing inequality to the dominance of a “professional political class.”
“A majority of the citizens of this nation have figured it out,” she said. “The system is broken. The game is rigged.”
Big and powerful companies and individuals get special tax provisions by hiring lobbyists, accountants and attorneys to look after their interests, she said.
“The big guys are doing great,” she said. “It’s called crony capitalism.”
But the poor and small businesses don’t have the ability to hire such representatives.
“If you’re small and you’re powerless, you’re getting crushed,” she said.
Fiorina also promised an assertive foreign policy if elected.
On her first day in office she would call off the nuclear deal with Iran and reassure Israel of her support, she said. She said she would also push back against Russian military actions in central Asia and China’s moves to assert more control over the seas along its border.
In an interview after the speech, Fiorina said she would support a reduced role for the feds in managing public lands.
“The federal government does a lousy job of managing forests,” Fiorina said. “The private sector does a much better job of managing forests. The federal government controls too much land in this country.”
But she said she would support more federal spending for research at places such as Idaho National Laboratory.
“This is a place where I actually think government can do more,” she said.
Fiorina said she thinks she’s positioned well to move ahead in the polls. Four debates remain before the Iowa primary, she pointed out.
“I’m very happy with where we are in the polls,” she said.