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Despite HP, Fiorina touts business experience for possible 2016 bid

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 16: Chair of the American Conservative Union Foundation Carly Fiorina speaks speaks during a forum on Capitol Hill March 16, 2015 in Washington, DC.

Mark Wilson, Getty Images

Carly Fiorina, who's "giving serious consideration" to running for president, took a swipe at her potential competitors Thursday, calling them a "professional political class."

Fiorina, a Republican who lost a bid for the U.S. Senate in 2010 and previously was CEO of Hewlett-Packard, argued that Americans think "people who have been in politics all their life are somehow disconnected from the rest of us." She appeared at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

Other than neurosurgeon Ben Carson and billionaire Donald Trump, most of those who are considering or have announced presidential bids are current or former political officeholders.

"They don't understand how the economy actually functions," she said. "I have spent 25 years in the world. I know many of the world leaders....I haven't had photo ops with world leaders - I've made deals with world leaders." Though she served as a fundraising chair for the Republican National Committee in 2008, Fiorina said of her own foray into politics, "I'm not a neophyte in government, but I'm not a professional politician."

But her political experience may take a back seat to the other narrative in her potential candidacy - that she's the only woman in a crowded field of men jockeying for the Republican nomination for president. One reporter joked, "I've never met a presidential candidate with fingernail polish on," causing Fiorina to respond quickly, "Well, there's a first time for everything!"

Fiorina says there are advantages to being a woman candidate - especially if she's facing a woman Democratic candidate.

"I think that if Hillary Clinton were to face a female nominee, there are a whole set of things that she won't be able to talk about. She won't be able to talk about being the first female president. She won't be able to talk about the war on women without being challenged. She won't be able to play the gender card," she said.

Still, Fiorina may find herself playing the gender card to set herself apart from the Republican field. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who is running, also takes aim at career politicians in Washington. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (who is running) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (who is thinking about running) share Fiorina's opposition to abortion.

Her sentiments on women hew closer to Clinton's than anyone else's.

"I think it's a sign of great progress that we will perhaps have two women running for president in 2016, one a Republican and one a Democrat," Fiorina said. "When women are fully engaged in every walk of life, our economy will perform better."

It's clear that, if and when Fiorina decides to run, economic performance will be a cornerstone of her campaign, and that she intends to use her extensive business resume on the campaign trail, even though her record is mixed. While she succeeded in rising to be one of the most powerful CEOs in the country at HP, the unpopular deal she made to merge with Compaq was eventually perceived as a bad decision that lost the company billions of dollars and resulted in her forced departure.

But that fact doesn't seem to be deterring Fiorina from touting her economic experience as her main credential for the White House.

"I believe the private sector demonstrably does many thing better. Not all things--but many things," she said. And if Fiorina makes it far on the campaign trail, it's evident she thinks it will be because of, rather than in spite of, her economic background and her perspective as a pioneering female candidate.

"Women represent huge untapped potential," said Fiorina. "You get women involved in any problem, the problem gets better."