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Carly Fiorina leaps to second place in Republican race

Technically Incorrect: A new CNN/ORC poll shows that the former HP CEO is now seen as a strong challenger for the Republican nomination.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Can she win? Darren McCollester/Getty Images

Perhaps all it takes is to put Donald Trump in his place, even if that place is still first.

On Wednesday, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina squished the bombastic "Celebrity Apprentice" celebrity by replying firmly to his suggestion in an interview that Fiorina was not blessed with pulchritude.

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

It was, perhaps, that one line that has suddenly vaulted her into the forefront of the reckoning. In a new CNN/OPS poll (PDF), Fiorina was ranked second behind Trump. She was favored by 15 percent of respondents, as opposed to Trump's 24 percent.

However, this represented an 8 percent drop for Trump compared with a poll taken earlier this month and a 12 percent rise for Fiorina.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson came third at 14 percent, with Marco Rubio fourth at 11 percent. Pre-race favorite (for some, at least) Jeb Bush scored only 9 percent.

The latest poll was conducted in the three days after the debate among 1,006 Americans contacted by phone, 924 interview among registered voters.

Fiorina came across in the debate as extremely controlled. She presented herself as able to take the debate to a slightly more exalted level than that favored by Trump. However, some of her answers -- for example, her comments about Planned Parenthood, seemed to veer dramatically from what many might describe as the truth.

Some believe the biggest hurdle she faces is to justify her actions as a tech CEO. Trump has gleefully suggested that she was a "terrible" CEO at HP and, indeed, at Lucent.

Fiorina countered that she was presented with difficult times at HP and ended up strengthening the company, while some competitors at the time went under.

However, the higher she flies in the polls, the more likely the media will focus on her technological past.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that Fiorina is bracing for such scrutiny.

I wonder how much people will care about her past record as a CEO.

Presidential elections can often come down to intangibles such as likability and projecting trustworthiness. It's not as if previous presidents -- even successful ones -- could have always pointed to stellar careers before they entered politics.

There have been B-list Hollywood actors and lower-level politicians who couldn't necessarily point to many achievements at all. Americans watch the show that is the two-year-long election soap opera and end up deciding who is their favorite character.

Fiorina has clearly thought deeply about her one-liners. But now that she has risen from the second-tier debate, the scrutiny will be on far more than just her record at HP.