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Carly Fiorina Takes on Trump, Breaks Out at GOP Debate

Photograph by Getty Images

Carly Fiorina came out swinging last night.

The 61-year-old lone female Republican candidate running for U.S. president took on not only Donald Trump, the GOP frontrunner who has made headlines for insulting Fiorina's looks, but she also positioned herself as a viable competitor to yet another frontrunner — Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Having fought her way onto CNN's main event stage (after participating in an "undercard" GOP debate in August) for the three-hour Republican debate that was broadcast last night from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., Fiorina held her own against candidates who can count more potential voters in their corner.

Among Fiorina's highlights of the night are her answer to a question lobbed by CNN anchor Jake Tapper, who confronts the elephant in the room — Trump's comments about her face and his subsequent backtracking, saying he only meant her "persona."

"I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said," she said followed by a round of applause.

For his part, Trump demurred, with, "I think she's got a beautiful face, and I think she's a beautiful woman."

But it wasn't only Trump who was on Fiorina's agenda in the debate. She also took on Clinton and President Barack Obama, imploring the latter to defund Planned Parenthood after videos made by a pro-life group surfaced earlier this summer showing a doctor from the organization at times jarringly discussing the use of aborted fetal tissue for research.

"As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this video tape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes, watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says, 'We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.' This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us," she said.

Fiorina's vivid descriptions have since been called into question, with reporters alleging that the scenario she's referencing doesn't exist on those videos. The candidate appeared on "Good Morning America" this morning, telling George Stephanopoulos, "Rest assured, I have seen the images I talked about last night."

While she obviously didn't attend the debate, for her part, Clinton has called the Planned Parenthood videos "disturbing" while still supporting the organization.

That wasn't the only topic Fiorina took issue with, however, when it came to mom/grandmother and former Secretary of State Clinton, who she seems to be keeping in her sights ahead of most of her Republican contenders.

"Mrs. Clinton is going to have to defend her track record, her track record of lying about Benghazi, of lying about her emails, about lying about her servers," Fiorina pressed, referring to the 2012 ambush of the American Embassy in the Libyan city as well as Clinton's recent debacle about sending highly sensitive government-related emails from a personal account.

While the former Hewlett-Packard CEO also took her hits from Trump, having to account for mass layoffs during her tenure at the company as well as her subsequent firing, she also took those moments to hit back at the real-estate entrepreneur's pricey ventures.

"You ran up mountains of debt, as well as losses, using other people's money," Fiorina told Trump. "Why should we trust you to manage the finances of this nation?"

She also positioned herself as a mom, specifically a stepmom to her husband Frank Fiorina's two daughters, one of whom passed away in 2009 at 35 years old.

Taking a stand against the legalization of marijuana, Fiorina relayed her own personal experience, saying, "My husband and I buried a child to drug addiction."

So what's next? CNBC will host the next Republican debate, which will take place in late October.

UPDATE: This article has been updated to reflect new reporting about the Planned Parenthood videos.

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