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Carly Fiorina Peaked Early And Faded Fast

Carly Fiorina dropped out of the presidential race this afternoon, via Facebook message, a day after her seventh-place finish, with just 4 percent of the vote, in the New Hampshire primary. The “And Then There Were None”-esque winnowing of the GOP presidential field continues.

Fiorina entered the campaign in May of last year, the only female Republican candidate, touting her leadership experience as the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard. If there was a lane for Fiorina in what was once a 17-lane autobahn-style highway of a GOP race, then it was one for a hybrid vehicle: She was the outsider-establishment candidate, running largely on her businesswoman bona fides and having never held elected office, and a gender warrior to boot.

Fiorina garnered attention early in the primary season for her debate performances, particularly in response to personal attacks launched by Donald Trump. “Look at that face,” he said of Fiorina, according to a September Rolling Stone article. “Would anyone vote for that?” In a Sept. 16 debate, Fiorina fired back: “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.” Her performance was also notable for her claims about undercover videos of a Planned Parenthood clinic, which Fiorina wrongly said showed “a fully formed fetus” kicking on the table.

Not coincidentally, Fiorina’s support in the polls reached its all-time high in September:


But heading into the late fall, winter and the voting contests of 2016, Fiorina had all but disappeared from the conversation. Her ground game was virtually non-existent; in Iowa, she had no field offices and only two paid staff members. Her most notable moments in the campaign remained in debates, where she took on an attack-dog role against Hillary Clinton in particular.

Fiorina’s parting message for supporters contained a message directed at women in particular: “To young girls and women across the country, I say: do not let others define you. Do not listen to anyone who says you have to vote a certain way or for a certain candidate because you’re a woman. That is not feminism. Feminism doesn’t shut down conversations or threaten women. It is not about ideology. It is not a weapon to wield against your political opponent. A feminist is a woman who lives the life she chooses and uses all her God-given gifts. And always remember that a leader is not born, but made. Choose leadership.”

Clare Malone is a former senior political writer for FiveThirtyEight.