WASHINGTON—Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina finds herself in a position to build on a strong debate performance for the second time in six weeks, enjoying glowing reviews for demonstrating a command of policy details while taking on front-runner Donald Trump.
"I successfully introduced myself to those who did not know me and demonstrated once again that I am the most qualified candidate on that stage to win this job and to do this job," Fiorina told NBC News Thursday, less than eight hours after the conclusion of the debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.
Fiorina, the only woman among the Republicans' 15 top candidates, offered forceful answers Wednesday night on U.S. relations with Russia and funding for women's health and abortion provider Planned Parenthood, among other topics. But one of her standout moments came when she dismissed Trump's previous criticism of her appearance.
"Donald Trump says many things and we all have to live with what we've said," she said Thursday.
She added that "women are, still, caricatured and scrutinized and criticized differently" from men. "Women deal with that every day, and so I think women understood."
Initially viewed as a front-runner, the former Florida governor has struggled to turn his commanding fundraising advantage into voter support.
Known for his famous family connections, Bush said he was proud of his relatives but must tell the story of his own conservative record as Florida governor. "I'm confident I'll pick up steam going forward," he said.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie emphasized his and Bush's defense of President George W. Bush. Jeb Bush said his brother, often criticized for his decision to invade Iraq in 2003, "kept us safe" after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Christie stood by his remarks when asked Thursday on CNN whether George W. Bush's record is tainted by having been president at the time of the attacks.
While Christie got far less time in the debate than the front-runners, speaking for a little more than 11 minutes during the three-hour session, he attempted to make the most of his time by targeting Trump and Fiorina for focusing on their business records.
"No whining and moaning from this camp," he told MSNBC on Thursday morning. "You don't win in politics by whining and moaning and complaining."
In her interview, Fiorina downplayed her place as the only woman among the Republican hopefuls, saying "I've never been a token in my life." But GOP strategists and voters are increasingly intrigued about Fiorina as a foil to Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"Hillary Clinton is going to have to stand to account for her track record and her accomplishments, or lack thereof. That's what this election should be about," Fiorina said.
Fiorina faces increasing focus on her own record, with new attention on her rocky tenure at Hewlett-Packard, where she was ultimately fired. Mostly repeating the answer she offered Wednesday, Fiorina told NBC that the experience was not a liability.