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From HP to VP? Feisty Fiorina winds up on Cruz ticket

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Donald Trump had been dominating debates and stomping on Republican rivals for weeks in the early stages of the US presidential primary race - until he met his match in tough-as-nails White House hopeful Carly Fiorina.

[WASHINGTON] Donald Trump had been dominating debates and stomping on Republican rivals for weeks in the early stages of the US presidential primary race - until he met his match in tough-as-nails White House hopeful Carly Fiorina.

The former Hewlett-Packard chief executive's own presidential ambitions fizzled in February when her underfunded campaign failed to take off in early primaries.

But suddenly she's back, now that Mr Trump's chief rival Ted Cruz on Wednesday unveiled Ms Fiorina as his vice presidential pick should he win the Republican nomination.

"Over and over again, Carly has shattered glass ceilings," Mr Cruz said in introducing his running mate.

Ms Fiorina stole the show last September in California, humbling The Donald with stinging criticism of his insulting comments - and announcing to the world that she wasn't scared of a bully.

She was cool and calm when asked to respond at a debate to Mr Trump's assessment of her appearance when he told Rolling Stone magazine: "Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?"

"I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr Trump said," she said.

Earlier she brushed aside Mr Trump's remarks with poise. "This is the face of a 61-year-old woman," she said. "I am proud of every year and every wrinkle."

The Texas senator embraced Ms Fiorina's steely demeanor and propensity to lay down withering political fire at both Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.

"They don't know what to do when a strong, powerful woman stands up and says, 'I am not afraid,'" Mr Cruz said.

Ms Fiorina is the daughter of a prominent conservative law professor who rose to become a respected federal judge for more than 30 years.

Her "secretary-to-CEO" trajectory is legendary.

During summers between semesters at Stanford University, she typed bills of lading in the Hewlett-Packard shipping department, then worked as a receptionist at a property brokerage firm.

After graduating from business school, and earning a second master's degree, she became a US business star at AT&T, where in 1996 she led the company's telecommunications equipment spinoff Lucent Technology.

Shortly after Fortune magazine named her the country's most powerful woman in business, in 1999, HP hired her to run the firm, making her the first woman to head a Fortune 50 company.

In 2002, she rammed through a US$20 billion deal to acquire rival Compaq. But HP's board ultimately viewed the deal as a mistake, and fired Ms Fiorina in 2005.

Ms Fiorina has based much of her case for being a strong president on her record at HP, arguing that she doubled revenues to US$90 billion in six years and "took the company from laggard to leader in every product category and every market segment in which we competed."

Critics have sharply disagreed, including Democratic operatives who highlight how she laid off 30,000 people and outsourced jobs during her tenure.

In 2010, the political novice launched a bid for the US Senate. She spent millions from her personal fortune, but lost resoundingly to incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer of California.

Five years later, she determined that her status as a political outsider, and a strong-headed conservative woman, would do her well in the presidential race.

She vaulted into the top tier in September after strong debate performances, which included tough rebukes of Mrs Clinton's record as secretary of state.

Mr Cruz may see in Ms Fiorina as the surrogate who can counter the argument that Republicans were waging a war on women, and can argue that she, and not Hillary, was best-qualified to be the first female commander in chief.

She occasionally plays up her femininity, dressing in bright pink or red suits.

Ms Fiorina, like Mr Cruz, strongly opposes abortion rights, and she has launched passionate pro-life pleas to end federal funding to women's health care and abortion provider Planned Parenthood, which she has accused of selling fetal tissue.

Ms Fiorina has won plaudits for her moving account of her stepdaughter's 2009 death after years of struggles with alcohol and prescription pills, and has called for expanded treatment for addicts.

AFP