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Carly Fiorina Pulled From Debate – But Still In The Race


Joining us now is Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, who was not allowed to take part in last night's debate despite performing better than expected in Iowa. Mrs. Fiorina, thanks for being with us this morning.

CARLY FIORINA: Good morning. Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: Your campaign sent out a statement yesterday saying that instead of watching the debate, you and your husband were going to have a date night and do dinner and a movie. Does that mean you did not watch?

FIORINA: I did not watch. Now I don't have any need to watch a brawl that has nothing to do with the American people and everything to do with the power and ambition of the people on that stage. I have been saying since I launched this candidacy, the game is rigged. The debate last night, ABC and the RNC kept me off the stage despite the fact that I have beaten Christie and Kasich in Iowa, despite the fact that I tied Gov. Bush in delegates. Despite all that, despite the fact that votes and delegates are supposed to count, a bunch of executives in New York and Washington decided who the people of New Hampshire should hear from. But you see, that's just a microcosm of what's been going on for years. The poll...

MARTIN: ...So why do you think the game is rigged? I mean, do you think you were intentionally blocked from the debate?

FIORINA: Well, let's look at the bigger picture here. Yes, I do. Yes, I do.


FIORINA: I was intentionally blocked. Well, I don't know. Several candidates on the stage didn't want to debate me. They lobbied against me. The anybody-but-Carly, that worked. Maybe George Stephanopoulos really doesn't want me debating Hillary Clinton. But here's the bigger picture. This actually isn't about me. Eighty percent of the American people think we have a professional political class that cares more about its power, position and privilege, not getting anything done. They're right. Eighty percent of the American people think the federal government is corrupt, awash in special interest and crony capitalism. They're right. I'm running because we have to take our country back. And frankly, a vote for me is a vote for the American people because the game is rigged. The deck is stacked.

MARTIN: And you've been saying that message, and you've been strong on that. And you performed, as you know, better in Iowa than Gov. Christie or Kasich, who were both on the debate stage. But you're still well behind the top three front-runners in this race. Clearly, you are still in the race because you think you can change that. But how?

FIORINA: Let's talk about how I started. I started 17 out of 16 candidates. Less than 4 percent of voters had ever heard my name. I didn't have years of built-in email lists. The pundits wrote me off. The polls didn't even ask for my name. I have come further...

MARTIN: ...So does that mean you're where you want to be? You feel good about where you are?

FIORINA: I have come further - from further behind than anyone running. There are only eight of us left. Yeah, I feel real good about where I am because guess what? I have already bested governors, both current and former, senators. Eight people are gone. Only eight people are standing. And I'm rising in the polls here in New Hampshire where, as you point out, half the people haven't even made up their mind yet. Yeah, I feel really good about where I am. And I think the American people are tired of the same old game. They've figured it out. They have a choice in this election. They can vote for me, which is a vote for them.

MARTIN: Only 2 percent of Republican women voted for you in the Iowa caucuses. Cruz got 27, Trump got 24. Even Ben Carson got 11 percent of female Republican votes. Were you disheartened by that?

FIORINA: Not at all because you see, Trump is a celebrity who gets unequaled airtime. Cruz is a professional politician who just spent millions of dollars on his email lists for years. And Ben Carson is well-known, and has been for years. The people of Iowa didn't know who I was six months ago. They'd never heard of me. And yet, despite never hearing of me, despite us coming from very far behind, we beat Kasich and Christie, well-known names, we tied Jeb Bush. And we are leading Ben Carson in the polls here in New Hampshire, we are leading Chris Christie in the polls here in New Hampshire. So I'm not disheartened at all. I'm encouraged. And I think our supporters are incredibly encouraged, which is why they're turning out bigger crowds than we expect every time, cheering because they know this is actually about them. You see, it's not about me. It's not about ABC and the RNC making that stupid choice. It's about the game being rigged against the American people.

MARTIN: Will you...

FIORINA: ...When 80 percent of us think the government is corrupt, what does that tell you? It's Democrats, Independents, Republicans, it's men and women, it's young and old, it's all of us. The truth is it is corrupt, and a professional political class and the media establishment have been playing the game for them, not for the American people.

MARTIN: Will you support the Republican nominee no matter who it is?

FIORINA: I'm going to keep running for this office. I'm running for president. I don't answer theoretical questions. It's crazy to me that the media have decided this race is over. We've have had exactly one caucus. That's all. This race is just beginning, and I'm prepared to leave my trust and confidence in the voters. Let's let people vote. So far, the political establishment and the media establishment don't want to count votes. They think they're smarter than all these voters and that the polls mean more than votes and delegates. I'm prepared to let people vote.

MARTIN: And finally, a pressing question, Mrs. Fiorina, but you said you had dinner and a movie last night with your husband. What movie did you watch?

FIORINA: (Laughter) You know, I watched one of my favorite movies of all time, "Secretariat."

MARTIN: And so you weren't - we did hear that you were sending out tweets last night from the debate. You didn't sneak away and do a double screen? Like, look at the debate for a little bit and go back to the movie?

FIORINA: I did not.

MARTIN: Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, thanks so much for talking with us.

FIORINA: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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