Political outsider Carly Fiorina stands out

A closer look at Carly Fiorina 02:06

Sixty-one-year-old Carly Fiorina was the first female Fortune 500 CEO.

In a sea of generalities, Fiorina stands out for her specificity.

During the GOP debate Wednesday night, she detailed her plan on Iran and said, "Vladimir Putin is someone we should not talk to."

She's working to carve out a niche -- as a political outsider who has studied up.

Fiorina wouldn't be an outsider if she had won her senate race in California in 2010. She lost by 10 points.

Hurt by her rocky tenure at Hewlett Packard and her image as a failed CEO.

Fireworks as GOP candidates clash at second d... 03:24

Even now, her business record is both her calling card and her biggest vulnerability.

Fiorina argues her decision to merge up with Compaq paid off in the long run.

Asked if when looking back, there was a way to conduct the merger that wouldn't have required laying off so many people, Fiorina told CBS News, "When you have two companies that each employ literally tens -- about tens of thousands of people -- you don't need two chief financial officers. One of them has to go. You don't need two general counsels. One of them has to go. On the other hand we grew the sales force."

Carly Fiorina talks GOP debate and European r... 04:20

That straightforward style has won applause from party leaders.

On Wednesday night she was the only candidate to say she wouldn't put a woman on the $10 bill.

On "CBS This Morning," she explained why.

"I think politics is full of empty gestures and people are tired of empty gestures," she said.

Fiorina says if she's the nominee, Hillary Clinton won't be able to play what she calls "the gender card." But on many so-called women's issues, from Planned Parenthood to paid maternity leave, Fiorina's views are identical to the men she shared the stage with Wednesday night.

  • Nancy Cordes
    Nancy Cordes On Twitter»

    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.