There’s one word to describe Carly Fiorina.
Really. Just one.
At least that’s the impression left after reading the coverage of her performance at last week’s Republican presidential debate.
“Steely” is how numerous news outlets described the 2016 hopeful; in particular her icy put-down of Donald Trump, when asked her reaction to his impolite comments about her appearance.
Merriam-Webster says “steely” means “very strong and determined often in a cold or unfriendly way.” If anyone on the campaign trail deserved a “cold or unfriendly” retort, Trump would be the hands-down choice.
The episode was just one of several attempts by debate host CNN to turn the event into a series of one-on-one cage matches among the candidates.
So many news outlets used “steely” in writing about Fiorina that one might reasonably ask if there’s a herd mentality in political reporting. But that’s like asking whether candidates say stuff that’s not always true.
Like Fiorina herself, who during the debate dared President Obama and Hillary Clinton to watch an anti-Planned Parenthood video. It turns out that Fiorina herself likely never saw the video as she described it because there’s little evidence that it exists.
But back to “steely.” Why did that become the go-to adjective for the former Hewlett-Packard CEO?
“With a debate performance that was steely and at times deeply personal… ‑ The New York Times.
“At this point, Fiorina’s face remained steely, and the moment belonged to her.” ‑ The Huffington Post.
“The former CEO…wowed the Republican base with her strong conviction that all you need is a steely gaze…” ‑ MarketWatch.
“(Trump) tried to come back with a smarmy compliment on what a beautiful woman she was. The Look — see the video to see the steely gaze she levels at Trump…” ‑ National Review.
“I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said,” Fiorina said on Wednesday with a steely expression…” – MSNBC.
“Steely-eyed and confident, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive stole the show at times…” ‑ AFP
“…the former Hewlett-Packard CEO was widely credited for stealing the show with her steely poise and smart responses to Donald Trump.” ‑ New York Post.
With so much steel floating around the Reagan library that night, they should have handed out hard hats. But apparently there’s no truth to the rumor that Fiorina’s 3 ½-inch Manolo Blahnik’s high heels were steel-toed reinforced.
She now finds herself just behind Trump, the frontrunner, in the latest CNN poll of the GOP presidential field. After her performance and glowing press clippings, Fiorina’s competitors would be wise to steel themselves.
She’s beginning to steal their thunder.