Fiorina is up in Clinton's space in South Carolina

Columbia, South Carolina (CNN)Hillary Clinton was in town on Wednesday -- and so was Carly Fiorina.

First the former Hewlett Packard chief executive popped up outside the Marriott hotel where Clinton was just about to kick off a campaign event, offering to take questions from the press since Clinton so often won't.
Forty-five minutes later and six blocks down the road, there Fiorina was again, bragging to the South Carolina House Republican caucus about what she'd just done as they chewed on grilled chicken at a Hilton hotel luncheon.
    "I've answered probably 420-plus questions on the record about everything, from, 'Is a hot dog a sandwich?' -- I flubbed that one, I will tell you -- to what I would do about ISIS and everything in between," Fiorina said. "And Hillary Clinton has answered maybe 15 questions."
    Barely registering at the polls and less than three months away from the GOP's first primary debate, Fiorina is making her one and only play: attacking the best-known presidential candidate of them all. And while it's too soon to tell whether Fiorina's tactics are paying off in the polls, Republican officials and activists in the early-primary states say what she's doing is working.
    This is the niche Fiorina has carved for herself: In the Republican lineup of presidential candidates, she's the anti-Clinton designated hitter.
    By tracking the Democratic front-runner down in Columbia, Fiorina all but guaranteed herself at least a small spot in national news stories about Clinton's campaign -- just enough limelight to make a difference for a campaign desperate to climb out of the GOP's ranks of also-rans in one of the most crowded primary fields in recent memory.
    Fiorina's go-to line -- the one she peppers into every speech and question-and-answer session -- is "unlike Hillary Clinton." And the fact that they are the two women in the 2016 presidential race might be about all that Clinton and Fiorina -- or at least their campaigns -- have in common.
    More important, though, is that strategically, they exist in entirely different worlds.
    For Clinton, the run for the White House is more of a long slog. She's under no particular pressure from other candidates in her own party to deliver bold policy ideas, field tough questions from reporters or stage the sorts of campaign rallies that she's certain to attend a year from now.
    Fiorina, though, is already under serious pressure.
    Just three weeks into her campaign for the Republican nomination, she's cognizant she only a little more than two months to climb into the ranks of the top 10 contenders in a much broader field. That's in order to appear in the first Fox News debate, and the top-tier of CNN's planned two debates -- crucial to gaining a much broader audience.
    "Now that I understand the rules and I understand the goals, I'm going to work hard to meet the goals," she told CNN. "I don't think they change (my tactics) that much. I'm confident that I'll be on that debate stage."
    So Fiorina has chosen to play up an angle that could get her there: the GOP's female anti-Clinton.
    She doesn't delve much into her own vision for domestic policy on the campaign trail, instead leaning on her technology experience and highlighting her stylistic differences with President Barack Obama and, particularly, Clinton. The subtext: Of everyone in the room who shares a distaste for Clinton, Fiorina's is the most bitter of all.
    The former CEO said she was intentionally chasing Clinton down in Columbia, noting that she'd scheduled a trip to the Palmetto State's capital city weeks earlier. But Wednesday's events told a different story -- as did the email Fiorina aide Sarah Isgur Flores sent to the press corps that travels with Clinton on Tuesday night.
    "We know it must be hard covering the 'Hillary for America But Against Transparency' campaign," she said.
    "We've answered hundreds of questions from reporters because we believe the American people will not and should not elect a president that can't answer for her record, won't explain her positions or for whom the truth is whatever she can get away with," Flores said.
    Deepening its attack, Fiorina's campaign launched a social media effort with the hashtag "#AskHillary."
    Still, tallying the number of questions Fiorina has taken compared to Clinton is just the latest line of attack the former business executive's campaign has used.
    One of her biggest applause lines on the stump is a critique of Clinton's time as secretary of state: Jetting around the world, Fiorina says, "is an activity, not an accomplishment."
    She, too, has met foreign leaders, Fiorina said Wednesday.
    "Unlike Hillary Clinton, I didn't do photo ops. I had real meetings," she said.
    She also used a playful but personal jab at Bill Clinton, turning one woman's Facebook attack on female presidential candidates around by saying she's heard of male politicians' "judgment being clouded by hormones."
    While her gender could make Fiorina's attacks on Clinton more effective with some audiences, the gambit also comes with some risks, conservative operatives and commentators have warned.'s Leon H. Wolf compared it to "tokenism" and said Fiorina's gambit risks undermining the female leaders better known to party insiders, like South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and New Mexico Gov. Susanna Martinez.
    Nicolle Wallace, a former top George W. Bush aide and now co-host of The View, asked in a Politico podcast this month, of Fiorina's role as the GOP's chief Clinton attack dog: "Why does that fall to a woman?"
    "You know, I don't want to be the chick police, but I think that Carly will go far by broadening the attack to everything that's wrong with the liberal approach as opposed to being the thorn in Hillary Clinton's side," she said.
    "She runs the risk of having it look personal," Wallace said. "But it's certainly up to her, if she thinks she's found her niche as the No. 1 Hillary Clinton critic, I'm sure she'll get a lot of attention."
    Still, Fiorina is winning rave reviews on the campaign trail -- particularly in Iowa and New Hampshire, where she's been a fixture and where strong speeches and an outsider's firebrand appeal could help her in a pack of governors and senators.
    South Carolina state Rep. Rita Allison, a Republican who chairs the House's education panel, said Fiorina is "very direct, she's very positive, she has great leadership abilities -- I noted that right away."
    "As she moves through, if people want to do a comparison (of Fiorina and Clinton), they'll definitely see the difference," Allison said.
    "Her name," she said of Fiorina, "will become a kitchen table name very quickly."