Analysis of Carly Fiorina’s Responses at the Undercard Republican Debate from August 6, 2015

By August 8, 2015Case Studies

On Thursday, August 6, 2015, FOX News presented two separate debates for republican candidates for the U.S. presidency. In the first debate, seven candidates who had the lowest polling numbers answered questions from FOX reports Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum.

Media reports suggest Carly Fiorina to have emerged from the debate as a much more viable candidate.It’s of interest to use EffectCheck® to assess the answers to the questions posed to her and analysis which emotions she evoked and what opportunities there were for her to improve upon her performance.

The transcript of the entire debate can be found here. Below are the answers she gave along with the corresponding analysis.

Asked about her self-comparison to the “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher, Fiorina responded:

“Well, I would begin by reminding people that at this point in previous presidential elections, Jimmy Carter couldn’t win, Ronald Reagan couldn’t win, Bill Clinton couldn’t win, and neither could’ve Barack Obama. I started as a secretary and became ultimately the chief executive of the largest technology company in the world, almost $90 billion in over 150 countries. I know personally how extraordinary and unique this nation is. I think to be commander in chief in the 21st century requires someone who understands how the economy works, someone who understands how the world works and who’s in it; I know more world leaders on the stage today than anyone running, with the possible exception of Hillary Clinton; understands bureaucracies, how to cut them down to size and hold them accountable; and understands technology, which is a tool, but it’s also a weapon that’s being used against us. Most importantly, I think I understand leadership, which sometimes requires a tough call in a tough time. But mostly, the highest calling of leadership is to challenge the status-quo and unlock the potential of others. We need a leader who will lead the resurgence of this great nation and unlock its potential once again. Thank you.”

EffectCheck shows that this response evoked mainly very high confidence, providing a solid support to her projected image.

Figure 1. EffectCheck histogram of lexical emotional response to question about self-comparison to Margaret Thatcher.


Question 2

Asked if Donald Trump was getting the better of her:

“Well, I don’t know. I didn’t get a phone call from Bill Clinton before I jumped in the race. Did any of you get a phone call from Bill Clinton? I didn’t. Maybe it’s because I hadn’t given money to the foundation or donated to his wife’s Senate campaign. Here’s the thing that I would ask Donald Trump in all seriousness. He is the party’s frontrunner right now, and good for him. I think he’s tapped into an anger that people feel. They’re sick of politics as usual. You know, whatever your issue, your cause, the festering problem you hoped would resolved, the political class has failed you. That’s just a fact, and that’s what Donald Trump taps into. I would also just say this. Since he has changed his mind on amnesty, on health care and on abortion, I would just ask, what are the principles by which he will govern?”

Fiorina’s response is an interesting mix of evoked anxiety and compassion (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. EffectCheck analysis of Fiorina’s response regarding Donald Trump.

Figure 3 shows the word cloud analysis on compassion:

Figure 3. Word cloud analysis within the compassion scale.


The topic is entirely on Donald Trump here so the evoked emotions may be projected on him. Fiorina might have done better to close this answer with something about herself to help bring evoked compassion back to her own campaign.

Question 3

When asked about the trade-off between privacy and terrorism risk:

“Let me say first that it is disturbing that every time one of these home-grown terrorist attacks occurs, and, as your question points out, they are occurring with far too great frequency, it turns out we had warning signals. It turns out we knew something was wrong. It turns out some dot wasn’t connected, and so the first thing we have to do is make sure that everyone and every responsible agency is attuned to all of these possibilities and symptoms. We even had warnings about the Boston Marathon bombers, and yet the dots weren’t connected. So we need to get on a different mindset. Secondly, I certainly support that we need to tear down cyber walls, not on a mass basis, but on a targeted basis. But let me just say that we also need down — to tear down the cyber walls that China is erecting, that Russia is erecting. We need to be very well aware of the fact that China and Russia are using technology to attack us, just as ISIS is using technology to recruit those who would murder American citizens. I do not believe that we need to wholesale destroy every American citizen’s privacy in order to go after those that we know are suspect or are — are already a problem. But yes, there is more collaboration required between private sector companies and the public sector. And specifically, we know that we could have detected and repelled some of these cyber attacks if that collaboration had been permitted. A law has been sitting — languishing, sadly, on Capitol Hill and has not yet been passed, and it would help.”

Unsurprisingly, Fiorina’s response regarding terrorism and cyber warfare evokes very high levels of anxiety, hostility, and depression (Figure 4). It would have helped her to find a way to finish her answer with higher evoked confidence about what she would advocate doing.

Figure 4. EffectCheck analysis of Fiorina’s response to questions about terrorism and cyber warfare.


Question 4

When asked if she would call on Apple and Google to cooperate with the FBI:

“I absolutely would call on them to collaborate and cooperate, yes.”

This answer is so short relative to political speeches in the EffectCheck library that an assessment should be viewed more cautiously. Figure 5, however, indicates that despite the controversial topic, Fiorina’s answer evokes no “negative” emotions, evoking only confidence, compassion, and happiness (optimism).

Figure 5. EffectCheck analysis of Fiorina’s short response regarding Apple, Google, and the FBI.


Question 5

When asked about how she feels about having allies who sometimes funnel money to terrorists:

“Yeah. Sometimes it’s a complicated situation, but some things are black and white. On day one in the Oval Office, I would make two phone calls. The first one would be to my good friend, Bibi Netanyahu, to reassure him we will stand with the State of Israel. The second will be to the supreme leader of Iran. He might not take my phone call, but he would get the message, and the message is this: Until you open every nuclear and every military facility to full, open, anytime/anywhere, for real, inspections, we are going to make it as difficult as possible for you to move money around the global financial system. I hope Congress says no to this deal. But realistically, even if they do, the money is flowing. China and Russia have never been on our side of the table. The Europeans have moved on. We have to stop the money flow. And by the way, as important as those two phone calls are, they are also very important because they say this. America is back in the leadership business. And when America does not lead, the world is a dangerous and a tragic place. This is a bad deal. Obama broke every rule of negotiation. Yes, our allies are not perfect. But Iran is at the heart of most of the evil that is going on in the Middle East through their proxies.”

Again, when asked about terrorism, military issues, and global conflict Fiorina evokes more anxiety but here keeps hostility and depression in check; however, it’s another missed opportunity to evoke more confidence about what she would do as president other than make the phone calls she identified (Figure 6).

Figure 6. EffectCheck analysis of Fiorina’s response to a question regarding allies who fund terrorism.


Question 6

When asked if she would help allies in the Middle East obtain nuclear weapons in the case that Iran had nuclear weapons:

“Let me tell you what I would do immediately, day two in the Oval Office. I would hold a Camp David summit with our Arab allies, not to talk them into this lousy deal with Iran, but to say to them, “what is it that you need to defeat ISIL?” You know, Obama has presented the American people with a false choice every time. It’s what I’ve done or not done, or it’s war. It is a false choice. King Abdullah of Jordan, a man I’ve known for a long time, has been asking for bombs and materiel. We have not provided them. He has gone to China. The Kurds have been asking us to arm them for three years. We haven’t done so. The Egyptians have asked us to share intelligence. We’re not doing it. We have Arab allies. They are not perfect. I know every one. But they need to see leadership, support and resolve from the United States of America, and we can help them defeat ISIS.”

It’s understandable that Fiorina’s response here would evoke high depression when treating a matter of nuclear proliferation – or as suggested by the question, purposefully encouraging such proliferation. As shown in Figure 7, Fiorina does a nice job of evoking high compassion but again missed the opportunity to evoke stronger confidence.

Figure 7. EffectCheck analysis of Fiorina’s response to a question regarding helping other countries obtain nuclear weapons.


Question 7

When asked about her first presidential order:

“I agree with my colleagues. We need to begin by undoing — I would begin by undoing a whole set of things that President Obama has done, whether it’s illegal amnesty or this latest round of EPA regulations. But let me go back to something that’s very important. We have been debating right here the core difference between conservatism and progressivism. Conservatives, I am a conservative because I believe no one of us is any better than any other one of us. Every one of us is gifted by God, whether it is those poor babies being picked over or it’s someone whose life is tangled up in a web of dependence. Progressives don’t believe that. They believe some are smarter than others, some are better than others, so some are going to need to take care of others. That is the fight we have to have, and we have to undo a whole set of things that President Obama has done that get at the heart of his disrespect and disregard for too many Americans.”

Much of Fiorina’s response here is aimed directly or indirectly at President Obama. Figure 8 shows the EffectCheck analysis. Her low evoked confidence in this may work to her advantage since it may be more likely to be associated with her topic (Obama) than herself, but here the pattern repeats that there is a missed opportunity to evoke confidence about herself.

Figure 8. EffectCheck analysis on Fiorina’s answer about her first presidential orders.


Question 8

When asked how she can inspire the country:

“This is a great nation. It is a unique nation in all of human history and on the face of the planet, because here, our founders believed that everyone has a right to fulfill their potential and that that right –they called it life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness — comes from God and cannot be taken away by government. We have arrived at a point in our nation’s history where the potential of this nation and too many Americans is being crushed by the weight, the power, the cost, the complexity, the ineptitude, the corruption of the federal government, and only someone who will challenge the status quo of Washington, D.C. can lead the resurgence of this great nation. I will do that.”

Here Fiorina answers very effectively, evoking high happiness, very high confidence, and does not get it muddled with “negative” emotions (Figure 9).

Figure 9. EffectCheck analysis of Fiorina’s response to being asked how she can inspire the country.

Question 9

When asked about Hillary Clinton:

“Not trustworthy. No accomplishment.”

Here, the four words present too small a sample size for an EffectCheck comparison to political speech.

Question 10

When asked for a closing statement:

“Hillary Clinton lies about Benghazi, she lies about e-mails. She is still defending Planned Parenthood, and she is still her party’s frontrunner. 2016 is going to be a fight between conservatism, and a Democrat party that is undermining the very character of this nation. We need a nominee who is going to throw every punch, not pull punches, and someone who cannot stumble before he even gets into the ring. I am not a member of the political class. I am a conservative; I can win this job, I can do this job, I need your help, I need your support. I will, with your help and support, lead the resurgence of this great nation. Thank you.”

Fiorina’s closing statement is really a dichotomy of two thoughts. The initial focus on Hillary Clinton evokes all the hostility and anxiety evidenced in Figure 10. Her close about herself evokes all the confidence. See Figure 11 to note the dichotomy more clearly. It might have been better to extend these remarks longer to sustain that evoked confidence for a longer period of time.

Figure 10. EffectCheck analysis of Fiorina’s closing statement.

Figure 11. 30-word moving window EffectCheck analysis of Fiorina’s closing statement.


Fiorina’s debate performance was viewed as strong on substance. As evidenced by EffectCheck analysis, her evoked emotions usually properly paralleled the topics she covered; however, Fiorina may have had an even better result by ensuring a close to each response that reaffirmed confidence associated with her and her campaign.