DEWITT — The next presidential election is a little more than 18 months away. But according to Dan Smicker, co-chairman of the Clinton County Republican Party, the race — at least regionally — started Thursday night.
“This next year is just going to be a ball,” Smicker said during the local party’s annual Spring Event at the Clinton County Fairgrounds in DeWitt. “We have a tremendous amount of excellent candidates. Let the race begin.”
Kicking it off was former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, the evening’s keynote speaker, who says she is within two weeks of finalizing her decision to run for the Oval Office.
For more than an hour, Fiorina addressed hundreds within the fairgrounds’ Agricultural Hall. Her speech touched on border control, health care, counterterrorism, big government and strengthening small business.
But each topic returned to her central theme: “Our founders knew that everybody has gifts,” Fiorina said in her opening. “They knew that everybody has potential. And they coupled that insight with what at the time was a radical idea... that everybody has the right to fulfill their potential.”
Nationally, Fiorina has been tied to presidential runs in the past. The California native served on Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008, and she was defeated in a U.S. Senate race by incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer in 2010.
Now, her name has been tied to the open 2016 race. Fiorina hasn’t ruled out those possibilities, and flirted with the idea during the banquet.
“When I make a final decision and announce in probably less than two short weeks,” she said, “I will do so because I believe our nation is at a pivotal time. We can fix all these problems. We can heal all these wounds. But we don’t have endless time to do it. We have a window of opportunity.”
Several hopefuls have already touched down in the purple state of Iowa. Clinton County saw Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry and Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders in the fall of 2014.
Then, of course, there’s former U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, who kicked off her own presidential run in Iowa weeks ago. Fiorina said she too is breathing in the Hawkeye state, having visited a number of communities from east to west. She will leave the state on Sunday.
As for Hilary, Fiorina had a few things to say about her as well.
“Hilary Clinton must not be president because she lacks the transparency and the candor that is necessary for trustworthiness — and people need to trust their leaders,” Fiorina said. “She should not be president because she lacks a track record of accomplishment. And she should not be president because the policies she will pursue will make crony-capitalism worse, will crush the middle class further and will continue to destroy possibilities for too many Americans.”
Candidates like Clinton, she added, cause disquieted citizens. Voters deserve candidates who are going to restore leadership, managers who are going to unlock potential in others.
America, to Fiorina, is a land of opportunity that is catered around unearthing that potential. It’s the reason she feels she was able to go from law school dropout to CEO of one of the largest companies in the country.
Still, no confirmation yet on if Fiorina is running. Regardless of who goes for president, it’s clear what one “potential” hopeful is looking for from the nation’s capitol.
“Here, every American’s life is defined by their gifts and their possibilities, with liberty and justice for all,” Fiorina concluded to applause.
Said Smicker to the Clinton Herald: “She is a legitimate candidate. Nobody’s laughing about Carly Fiorina.”
Assistant Editor Brenden West can be contacted at email@example.com