MANCHESTER, N.H. — Wrapping up her three day trip through the first-in-the-nation primary state, Carly Fiorina was feeling the momentum that has propelled her to second place here in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll, declaring at her final stop “I’m a frontrunner."
“I think what these latest polls show is that when people get to see me, they get to hear me, they get to know me, the more they support me," she said earlier in the trip.
But Fiorina’s rise in the polls has been matched by the increased pressure and scrutiny of a frontrunner -- as her business record, previous campaign, and comments on the trail have come under fire from rivals and news organizations.
Indeed, her swing through News Hampshire showed a hint that she is aware of the increased attention as she makes small adjustments.
Since the last debate in mid-September, Fiorina has been widely criticized for incorrectly characterizing and connecting Planned Parenthood to a clip in a video released by an anti-abortion group.
Fiorina repeated the unproven connection to voters as recently as Friday in South Carolina. When pushed by Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press” last week, Fiorina said critics were "trying to distract the American people from the hideous reality that Planned Parenthood is aborting fetuses alive to harvest their brains and other body parts.”
Yet in this most recent trip, Fiorina pulled back. While she repeated her vow to defund Planned Parenthood as president, she conspicuously avoided mentioning the health-care provider by name in references to more graphic descriptions of abortion.
"I happen to be pro-life,” Fiorina told voters at former Sen. Scott Brown’s Backyard Barbecue, "but you can be pro-choice and understand that it is not what we should be about when an abortion provider is working hard to ensure that a fetus is aborted alive so that it's body parts can be harvested.”
On the road Fiorina has also tried to stay on the offensive, continuing to use her lines against Trump. But she’s also rolled in subtle jabs against other candidates, and clear attacks against the Washington Post and “members of the media” into her standard stump speech.
“There’s a big difference between reading about it in a book and actually knowing it,” Fiorina said while promoting her experience at a house party. She added, ”and there’s a big difference as well between a tough vote and a tough call.”
After the Washington Post published a story that questioned the time it took Fiorina to repay debt from her Senate campaign, Fiorina dodged the premise, instead telling reporters "I don’t think the Washington Post has much credibility anymore."
And on Trump, Fiorina hinted that she’s taking his support. When a reporter mentioned that Fiorina was just five points behind Trump in New Hampshire, Fiorina repeated a line she used in September’s debate after then calling Trump “a wonderful entertainer."
"All of us will be revealed over time and under pressure, that’s what a presidential campaign is about,” Fiorina said Sunday night, before showing a small smile and adding, "I think we are all being revealed over time and under pressure.”
It was both a hint that she’s taking support away from the man who criticized “that face” -- and also an acknowledgement that as her support grows, the pressure on her will only continue.
“You know, the long knives are out. That’s the way it is,” Fiorina said at that final New Hampshire stop. “That’s the way the game is played. That’s OK”, she added, warning supporters this race is going to be a fight.