A once-surging candidate's game plan in New Hampshire is simple

LONDONDERRY, New Hampshire — Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina’s New Hampshire primary game plan is simple: Beat expectations.

Speaking with Business Insider during a visit to Janie’s Cafe here on Tuesday, Fiorina’s campaign said that it didn’t have a target result. But the goal is to surprise voters and pundits who have counted her out.

“We don’t have a number,” said Anna Epstein, Fiorina’s press secretary. “It really is exceed expectations. We think we’re going to exceed expectations tonight.”

Months ago, Fiorina surged in the Republican primary after several well-received debate performances this summer.

But Fiorina has lost altitude in the polls ever since, dropping below the threshold for the last several main stage Republican debates. Still, her Iowa-caucus finish put her roughly tied with Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), while she beat out New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), both of whom have staked their campaigns on success in New Hampshire.

Beyond the expectations game, there’s a practical reason why Fiorina needs to finish well in Tuesday’s primary: She looks poised to again fail to qualify for the Republican debate if she cannot finish among the top five in New Hampshire.

Real-estate magnate Donald Trump appears poised to win the state. But the Fiorina campaign is one of several hoping that New Hampshire’s Republican electorate — which is less religious and more moderate than the Iowa electorate — will also boost candidates who lean more on policy chops.

“I think they will bear responsibility in voting really seriously,” Epstein said, noting that attendance at campaign stops in the week leading up to the primary was up. “And I think that’s helped us here with our events.”

The other two major “outsider,” non-politician candidates — Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson — have been widely criticised for their apparent lack of preparedness on some essential topics. But Fiorina has frequently touted her extensive knowledge of foreign policy gleaned from studying, as well as meeting with foreign leaders.

Asked about what she would have brought to the debate stage, Fiorina emphasised her problem-solving over her conservatism.

“What do I add every time I’m on the debate stage?” Fiorina told Business Insider. “Precise solutions. That’s what I add.”

Fiorina still has her supporters.

New Hampshire voter and waitress Lisa Tucci approached Fiorina during her diner stop Tuesday to voice her appreciation for the former CEO. She said she’d be heading straight to the polls after her shift ended to cast her vote for Fiorina.

“I like her, I like everything about her,” Tucci told Business Insider, emphasising that Fiorina’s failure to qualify for the debate stage was unfair. “She would have had a lot more votes if she was there. The whole system is unfair.”

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