Carly Fiorina speaks at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference. Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel, June 19, 2015. Photo: Michael Vadon.

The Fiorina Factor

Can Carly be the next President of the United States?

It’s looking more and more like Cara Carleton Sneed Fiorina can’t lose. If she doesn’t say or do something stupid between now and November 2016, she could wind up in the White House.

Professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld’s essay is the latest sign that intellectuals worry this might happen. Sonnenfeld is senior associate dean of leadership programs at the Yale School of Management.

I don’t know what to make of an academic who uses the word “revered” twice in an article on business executives. Sonnenfeld is either a bad writer or spends too much time on his knees.

Professor Sonnenfeld cites Fiorina’s failures at Hewlett Packard. It’s an impressive list of accomplishments, even by Bay Area standards.

HP lost 55 percent of its value while Carly was CEO. She squandered $25 billion on the moribund Compaq Computer. She fired thousands of people. And she walked away with a $100 million severance package.

None of that will matter if Carly Fiorina wins the Republican nomination. Most voters will never learn enough about Fiorina’s record at HP to change their minds about her.

Voter apathy is often the determining factor in presidential elections. We have what may be the least well-informed electorate in the world. As voters we’re a danger to ourselves. That’s because we feel safe.

An election in the U.S. isn’t the life-or-death issue it can be in other countries.

Think about it. Whoever gets elected president in 2016, there’s not going to be a knock on your door in the middle of the night. Thugs in trench coats won’t stop you on the street and demand to see your papers.

Isn’t there a chance you’ll get shot by trigger-happy cops? Like for scratching your balls during a traffic stop? Sure, but it’s pretty remote. And other than that, you’re safe.

Which brings us back to Carly Fiorina. A former Apple colleague tagged me on Facebook with Jason Mayland’s tweet on Fiorina. I thought it was hysterical. Mayland nailed it. His tweet was typical of the alarm that informed people feel at the prospect of a Fiorina presidency.

We laugh hardest at what we fear most.

There are grounds for that fear since circumstances might make a Fiorina presidency inevitable. Suppose I’m obliged to choose between Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump. I’d hold my nose and choose Fiorina as the Republican nominee. No contest, not even close.

I’d do the same thing in a heartbeat if I have to choose between Fiorina and Hillary Clinton. So would millions of other voters.

Why? In my case not so much because I dislike Hillary Clinton. I may not agree with Mrs. Clinton’s politics, but I don’t doubt her competence. She’s an intelligent, forceful woman who did all right as secretary of state.

OK, so she showed questionable judgment about her email accounts. And she bungled the Benghazi affair. It was an avoidable tragedy, but it was not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things. Especially compared to the Bush administration’s bungling that caused 9/11.

My objection to Mrs. Clinton is that she’d bring her husband back into the Oval Office with her. One Jerry Springer presidency was enough.

I suspect enough people feel that way to vote for Carly Fiorina instead.

Fiorina may be a bad person and a worse manager. But she has shown rare genius in weighing the political calculus. If she wins, she won’t be the most repellent person to become President of the United States. That distinction will remain with Woodrow Wilson until someone more disagreeable comes along.

In the meantime, Fiorina is starting to look like she may go all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.