Carly Fiorina gets warm Atlanta RedState reception after shining in debate

Carly Fiorina's sharp performance at Thursday night's second-tier debate propelled her to the national spotlight. And she came to Atlanta Friday intent on capitalizing on her momentum.

The former Hewlett-Packard chief executive impressed conservatives at the debate with her bracing attacks on Democrats - and GOP developer Donald Trump. She was greeted with a standing ovation at the RedState Gathering, one of the loudest greetings the conservative crowd showered upon any of the five presidential candidates who spoke here Friday.

"2016 is going to be a fight - a real fight - between conservatism and the progressivism that has completely dominated the Democratic Party. It's not only undermining the country, it's crushing the country's engine of economic growth," she said. "And in order to win, we have to have a nominee that throws every punch - who will not pull her punches."

Fiorina, who has long been among the loudest critics of Hillary Clinton, kept up her assault on the Democratic front-runner.

"I know more world leaders on the stage today than anybody running. Although I didn't do photo opps, like Mrs. Clinton did," she said, adding she would make two immediate phone calls upon election. The first would be to Israel's prime minister with a pledge for support. The second would be to Iran's leader with a warning not to cross the U.S.

"We need an unmistakable signal that America is back in the leadership business," she said.

Her campaign now faces the challenge of trying to convert the surge of interest into sustained support. Fiorina told reporters that she is "going to keep doing what I've been doing" amid the brighter spotlight.

"What we've been doing is building up momentum with donors, with supporters, with money," she said. "It's just that it gets a little easier when more people know who you are. Because before last night's debate, only 40 percent of Republican voters had heard of my name."

Carly Fiorina quick hits

Biggest applause line: "In order to win, we have to have a nominee that throws every punch - who will not pull her punches."

Sharpest jab at a Democrat: "Flying is an activity, not an accomplishment. What is your accomplishment?. I'm still waiting for an answer." - On a question she posed to Hillary Clinton.

Sharpest jab at a Republican: "People get captured by a system they've been in for too long. People get used to the status quo. I'm prepared to accept that most people who go to Washington are good people and want to serve … But the people who protect the status quo most aggressively or those that have benefited from it." - A response to a question on House Speaker John Boehner.

Check out the rest of our recent RedState stories:

Rick Perry says he’s ready this time

What Chris Christie said about Planned Parenthood

At RedState: Chris Christie greeted with a slam from a Georgia gun group

How the Georgia convention eclipses Iowa (for at least a weekend)

Why Gov. Nathan Deal is skipping the event

Your guide to who’s coming to the RedState convention.

The talk jock behind the Atlanta convention.

More AJC coverage of the RedState Gathering.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.