The divergent fortunes of two Republican presidential contenders were on full display Monday night, as former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) hit the late-night talk show circuit.
Fiorina, still riding the accolades from her performance in last week’s GOP debate, hit the set of “The Tonight Show” where the jovial Jimmy Fallon lobbed mostly softball questions her way – and the surging White House hopeful knocked each one out of the park.
“When people get to know me they tend to support me, and that’s what you see in the polls,” she said.
Asked what she wanted the American people to know about her, Fiorina practically gave a stump speech, beginning with her first job as a secretary at a small real estate office.
“It’s only in this country that you can go from being a secretary to the chief executive of the largest company in the world, to running for president,” she said. “I want to make sure that every American, regardless of what they look like, how they start or their circumstances, has the opportunity to find their God-given gifts. That isn’t true in America today.”
The only time the interview touched upon a controversial topic was when Fallon asked Fiorina to weigh in on the fellow Republican candidate Ben Carson’s recent statement that a Muslim shouldn’t be president, a question she seemed prepared for.
“I think that’s wrong,” Fiorina said. “It says in our Constitution that religion cannot be a test for office.”
She also took a shot at GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, saying her rival shares some similarities with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“[They] have a lot in common actually,” Fiorina said. “But we’ll just leave it at that.”
The interview, as expected, stuck to rosy topics, like how Fiorina sings made-up songs to her grandkids and her dogs, Max and Snickers. She belted out a few bars to the tune of the 1950's hit "Rock Around the Clock," earning applause from the audience and Fallon himself.
Cruz, by comparison, didn’t have such a great night.
A hero for social conservatives who are pushing for a federal government shutdown in a struggle over funding for Planned Parenthood, Cruz appeared on “The Late Show” with Stephen Colbert.
If the Texas lawmaker was hoping the conservative gadfly Colbert played on Comedy Central for so long would make an appearance, he was sorely mistaken.
Colbert tried to paint Cruz, who is near the back of the GOP presidential pack, into a corner over the legacy of Ronald Reagan. He noted the Republican icon raised taxes and had an amnesty plan for illegal immigrants.
“Neither of those things would allow Reagan to be nominated today,” Colbert said. “So to what level can you truly emulate Ronald Reagan?”
Cruz didn’t directly answer the question, nor another about if he would be willing to compromise and work with Democrats, saying only that Americans should “live within our means, stop bankrupting our kids and grandkids and follow the Constitution.”
“And no gay marriage,” Colbert interjected, which sparked a back-and-forth over whether the issue should be decided by Washington or left to the states to decide.
The strained but civil discussion at one point drew boos from the crowd. Colbert quickly stood up for Cruz.
“Guys, however you feel, he’s my guest, so please don’t boo him,” Colbert said.
Last week, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton passed on the chance to appear during the first week of Colbert’s newly-minted program, and the exchange likely had her top campaign aides breathing a sigh of relief that they had her appear on Fallon instead.
Colbert will interview Trump on Tuesday night.