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Mackinac Island — Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina said Saturday she’s ready to “lead the resurgence” of America by slashing the federal bureaucracy and whittling a 73,000-page tax code down to three pages.

Fiorina sought to tap into an anti-politician voter sentiment and used her Saturday night speech at the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference to lay out her conservative philosophy about the role of government in American life and warn against voter complacency.

“I think we have been managing the decline of this great nation for far too long,” Fiorina said in the Grand Hotel dining room where 1,007 diners were seated. “I am prepared – with your support, with your prayers, with your votes – to lead the resurgence of this great nation.”

Fiorina, the lone woman in a 16-candidate Republican presidential field, has seen her campaign gain traction in recent weeks following two widely praised debate performances, including on Wednesday at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California.

She arrived on Mackinac Island Saturday afternoon to crowds of Michigan supporters enthusiastic about her candidacy.

Speaking to a crowded Grand Hotel dining room, Fiorina trashed the federal bureaucracy and said “crony capitalism is alive and well” in Washington, D.C.

“We have come to a point in our nation’s history where the potential of too many Americans ... is being crushed by the weight, the power, the cost, the ineptitude and the corruption of the federal government and a professional political class that refuses to do anything about it,” she said. “The status quo just isn’t working anymore.”

If elected president, Fiorina vowed to eliminate 256,000 federal jobs in the coming years as Baby Boomer government workers retire.

“We need a leader who will challenge the status quo in Michigan,” she said. “... How long have we been talking in the Republican Party about reducing debt and deficits? How long have we been talking about limiting the size of government? How long have we been talking about tax reform?”

“We have all of the right ideas, folks, but we never get them done,” Fiorina added.

The former corporate CEO said reducing the size of the tax code would boost economic output and create jobs.

“If you get a 73,000-page tax code down to three pages, you help grow the economy,” she said. “If you help grow through the regulatory thicket, you help grow the economy.”

Fiorina said she would roll back the business regulations Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration has implemented and impose “zero-based budgeting so that we know where every single dollar of your money is being spent.”

“Every dollar is going to have to be justified in every department every year,” Fiorina said. “Because when we don’t do that, government just gets bigger and bigger and bigger.”

Fiorina was the fourth presidential candidate to speak at the state GOP’s biennial confab. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich spoke earlier Saturday. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush addressed the GOP faithful Friday night.

Fiorina impresses Michigan GOP

Fiorina rode a ferry to Michigan’s tourism mecca Saturday afternoon and stopped into a crowded reception honoring retiring U.S. Rep. Candice Miller at Horn’s Gaslight Bar, a popular Mackinac Island watering hole.

She was greeted by Republicans who wanted to snap photos.

Miller, R-Harrison Township, met Fiorina in person for the first time Saturday afternoon and introduced her at Saturday’s dinner.

Over the past month, Fiorina has been steadily climbing in national and state-level polls.

Several Michigan Republicans attending the biennial conference said they were impressed by Fiorina’s command of domestic and foreign affairs during Wednesday’s GOP presidential candidates’ debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

Steve Waskiewicz of Lansing said he’s a new and “growing” Fiorina fan since Wednesday debate, when Fiorina sparred directly with GOP frontrunner Donald Trump over each other’s resumes in corporate America.

“It’s her strong personality, strong presence,” Waskiewicz said. “She could get an edge because she knows the issues and can speak intelligently about them.”

Also, compared to Hillary Clinton, he added, Fiorina has no political baggage.

“Carly has a clean, clean, clean history,” Waskiewicz said.

Fiorina talked about her life story, starting as a secretary and working her way up to the top echelon of corporate America.

“I am keenly aware that it is only in this nation that a young woman can start out typing and filing and answering the phones for an 11-person real estate firm, go on one day to become the chief executive officer of the largest technology company in the world and run for the presidency of the United States,” Fiorina said.

Mindy Fernandes, a state committee member from Walled Lake, brought her 9-year-old daughter, Alycia, to Horn’s Gaslight Bar Saturday afternoon to catch a glimpse of Fiorina.

“My daughter is fierce, and I want her to see fierce, female candidates,” Fernandes said. “I like that she’s tough and strong on her principles.”

In the first debate on Aug. 6, Fiorina’s standing in national polls fell just short of being on the main ten-candidate debate stage in Cleveland. But she was widely praised by pundits for her performance in the undercard debate that evening.

Fiorina’s polling figures rose after the first debate, helping her earn a spot on Wednesday’s debate stage.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who remains neutral in the presidential race, predicted Friday at the outset of the conference that Fiorina would “be a center of attention here.”

“If there was any question whatsoever about her ability to hold her own or even thrive on a stage with some of the biggest personalities and highest contenders for the presidential contest, those questions were put to rest on Wednesday,” Calley said. “She had a very impressive performance. I could feel her numbers rising in the polls every time she answered a question.”

“She deserves to be on the stage with everyone else.”

clivengood@detroitnews.com

(517) 371-3660

Twitter.com/ChadLivengood

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