Fiorina making splash on campaign trail with counter-Clinton ops – but still behind in polls

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She's an accomplished businesswoman, a media-savvy campaigner and the only woman in the Republican presidential field.

But so far, Carly Fiorina is still struggling to translate that into a voter following.

The latest sign of the high hill she has to climb was a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday. It showed Fiorina at just 2 percent, tied with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who unlike Fiorina has not announced a 2016 bid. The silver lining for Fiorina is that she wasn't in last place and did crack the top 10 -- an important measure for which candidates will be allowed in the Fox News and other debates later this year.

But perhaps more than any other candidate, there remains a big gap between the attention she's getting -- not to mention the energy she brings to the stump -- and the standing in the polls.

To date, the former HP exec has been zig-zagging across the country, stressing her business experience and squaring her record up against Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton's -- a central part of her campaign strategy.

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    On Wednesday, she even piggybacked off a Clinton appearance in South Carolina by holding an impromptu press conference outside the event. Underscoring the counter-Clinton approach, her campaign also unveiled a new website,

    Fiorina got plenty of coverage. The top of the popular Drudge Report, from Wednesday afternoon into Thursday morning, displayed a screaming, bold-faced headline: "CARLY SLAMS HILLARY: LOOK IN THE MIRROR!"

    And yet the RealClearPolitics average of national polling still has Fiorina in second-to-last place among candidates tracked -- with 1.5 percent, just ahead of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has not announced a 2016 bid.

    Sarah Flores, Fiorina's deputy campaign manager, argues people just aren't tuned in to the 2016 race yet and says Fiorina is continuing to meet with voters, speak at events and answer questions about why she should be the Republican presidential nominee.

    John White, political science professor at Catholic University of America, suggested part of the problem is Fiorina has to fight that much harder to be heard this cycle, with so many candidates on the field -- most with high-level government experience.

    "You have sitting governors ... former senators," White said. "In 2012, people like Herman Cain could get attention."

    This time, he said, "Fiorina isn't getting the attention at the moment and while the base thinks she's making some good points, I don't think the base is inclined to vote for her because there are better presidential candidates."

    It will be Fiorina's challenge to change that perception.

    Basil Smikle Jr., Democratic strategist and founder of Basil Smikle Associates, questioned the strategy of spending so much time hammering Clinton when she needs to "differentiate herself" from her Republican opponents. He said it will be "really difficult" for her if she can't qualify for the Republican debates.

    Conservative political consultant T.J. McCormack, though, called the Clinton shadowing a "bold move." As for the GOP primary, he said playing up her "strong suits" -- as a business executive, and the only woman in the primary field -- should help. He suggested Fiorina could benefit from voters saying "not another Bush" or worried about the libertarian leanings of candidates like Sen. Rand Paul.

    "Everybody's got to wait and see, especially Republicans," he said.

    Fiorina, meanwhile, has deftly sparred with the media. She recently responded to questions from "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd and late-night host Seth Meyers about a cyber-squatter snapping up, by buying and -- to show how easy it was.

    At Wednesday's press gaggle, she made clear to the 20 or so reporters in attendance that unlike Clinton, she would answer their questions. Fiorina, who repeatedly has attacked foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation, also told reporters she didn't regret participating at one Clinton Global Initiative event herself but doubted she'd be asked back anytime soon.

    Fiorina, whose net worth has been estimated between $30 million and $119 million, has drawn a steady stream of conservative voters to her campaign events. At a dinner in Iowa in April, 300 people showed up to watch her give the keynote address.

    The Quinnipiac poll showed the current GOP primary leaders are former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (who has not yet announced), retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (who also has not announced). They were tied at the front with 10 percent each.

    Other measures of candidates' impact are also being produced. Using a comprehensive platform, the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management and Zignal Labs were able to track and analyze more than 10.3 million mentions of potential presidential candidates in the news and social media.

    "We're quantifying the old vaudeville and marketing phrase about how well messages 'play in Peoria' and everywhere else," GW professor Michael Cornfield said in a statement. "Whose brands are catching on -- and whose are catching flak?"

    On the GW "Public Echo" scale, which rates the candidates on a scale from 1 (crickets) to 11 (historic), Fiorina tied Huckabee at 3. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz topped the GOP list at 7 while Carson ranked at the bottom with 1. Clinton scored an 8.