WASHINGTON -- Two dozen Republicans already have hinted they might get into the 2016 presidential race, but Carly Fiorina is used to fighting her way to the top of a crowded field. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO said Wednesday that she's building a platform for a possible 2016 campaign focused on business and helping the middle class.
"I am seriously considering it. I haven't made a decision, but I think there is a need perhaps for a different perspective, a different set of experiences and different voices," she said. "I think I'll probably make a decision one way or another in the March, April time frame."
Fiorina released a report in conjunction with the University of Virginia and AOL co-founder Steve Case on how to create middle-class jobs by encouraging entrepreneurship. For someone with a strong business background, a report like this one is a form of campaign speech. Fiorina thinks her message will resonate with voters.
"You have to point people to their Main Streets. People see this. I think despite the continuing good news at many levels in the economy, that the reason a majority of Americans believe their future is not bright and their children's future is less bright is they look at their Main Streets and they see small-business owners who are struggling, they see shops that are boarded up," Fiorina told reporters after the rollout of her report. "They see this, they don't see a vital, vibrant Main Street."
The report offers insight into what her campaign would sound like.
"When and if I make that decision, there will be plenty of time to talk about my platform, but I think you heard a lot today about what I believe is the secret sauce of the American economic miracle," she said. "And I think the secret sauce is that human desire to build a better life and to live a life of dignity and purpose and meaning."
Fiorina isn't foreign to the world of politics. In 2010, she was the Republican nominee for Senate in California. She lost, but came closer than any Republican had to toppling Barbara Boxer.
The Republican field is likely to be exceptionally competitive, full of nationally known figures. As a business-focused moderate, she'd be competing for donors, staff -- and votes -- against Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Mitt Romney. Becoming a candidate would resurrect the issue of her public dismissal from HP and the criticism that surfaced about her management methods.
But she would be distinctive. She is currently the only woman on the Republican side who appears to be building a campaign. She was the first woman to head a Fortune 20 company and often was named one of the most powerful women in business. And, having started small, she has a relatable narrative.
"I started as a secretary in a nine-person firm. It's where most people started, little business," she said.
Fiorina is making the case that small businesses and helping entrepreneurship flourish are the keys to creating middle-class jobs.
"The discouraging sign to me is that, honestly, big government works very well for big business and this is a town of big government," Fiorina said. "I'm not quite sure we understand that to really rev up the engine of innovation and entrepreneurship, we are going to have to fundamentally reform." She added, "We have to start undoing some of this stuff and we have to start undoing with the goals of entrepreneurs and small business and innovators in mind."
"Helping the middle class" is a message that other politicians in both parties have identified as a winner. Hillary Clinton has made it a central talking point. Romney has hinted that bolstering the middle class could be a key element of his campaign, if he runs.
According to a Pew Research survey in 2014, 44 percent of the public considers themselves middle class and another 40 percent say they are lower middle class. And that same group has seen stagnant wages even as the recession has ended.
"Entrepreneurship is a profoundly human desire," Fiorina said. "It's about wanting to build something, wanting to create something new, wanting to make a difference, for yourself and for your family," Fiorina said.