Everyone from The Weekly Standard's Michael Warren to The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart to Politico's panel of "early-state insiders" believes that Carly Fiorina won last night's debate. I think she's going to get the biggest media bounce from the debate -- if you watch political TV or read pundits, you won't be able to avoid her for a week or two -- and I assume she'll get a poll bump as well. But I predict that a month from now she'll be back in the 3%-5% range, because she's just not the kind of woman Republican voters want.
She's not Sarah Palin or Joni Ernst. The legend of Palin is that she's an Alaska military mom who can field-dress a moose. Ernst is a military veteran who rides a Harley and used to castrate hogs on a farm. Their real or fictional toughness is rural, red-state, red-white-and-blue toughness. Their official biographies could be the lyrics to country songs.
And in public, Palin and Ernst both have big smiles for their allies. (You know how men are always asking women to smile.)
Fiorina reeks of coastal urbanity and the boardroom. She doesn't smile much. And while she radiates much more energy than Jeb Bush, she seems even more miserable than he does on the campaign trail. (You and I may not enjoy Sarah Palin's public appearances, but it's obvious that Palin enjoys them.)
Fiorina's words are brined in contempt -- nearly every sentence she utters seems as if it could be completed by an unspoken "you idiots." Palin, in her own uninformed, bratty, inarticulate way, comes off this way as well -- but her targets are always the right-wing base's enemies. Fiorina is going after base favorites like Donald Trump. I can't imagine the base warming to her if she's challenging one of their heroes.
She's well informed. I think that's a disadvantage -- there are three candidates in this race who've never held elected office, and the two who don't know diddlysquat about politics or policy are at the top of the polls. The base looks at Trump and Carson and thinks, They're us. The base doesn't understand the issues, so the base relates to Trump and Carson's insistence that they're going to deal with everything based on uninformed intuition. As an outsider, Fiorina would be more appealing to the base if she knew less.
She is impressing the media, however, especially the mainstream media. That's not going to help her much. A few months ago, when Jeb Bush was raising massive amounts of money, he impressed the mainstream media. That's not what the base wants. The base wants to feel it's rebelling against the system. So a month from now I think Fiorina's modest poll bump will have ended, and it'll still be Carson and Trump -- quite possibly in that order -- at the top of the polls.