Having watched the three hour debate on CNN last, my impression was Carly Fiorina was the best debater on stage, and I wasn’t the only one who was impressed, as there’s a growing consensus that Fiorina was the star of the debate.
The main reason Fiorina was allowed to attend the debate with front-runners like Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson was that she performed so well in an earlier debate against second tier candidates that she jumped in the polls to front-runner status. And now as a front-runner, she stole the show again.
Debating, particularly in a fast paced improvisational format, is a good proxy for IQ, as it requires many g loaded cognitive functions like general knowledge, thought organization, verbal fluency, and the ability to flexibly adapt to unexpected arguments, and take advantage of opportunities. The fact that Fiorina dominated the competition twice in a row, indicates extremely high g (general intelligence).
Most impressive was how Fiorina took a negative situation (Donald Trump making insulting comments about her face) and turned it around to her advantage (the very definition of intelligence):
For a woman who obviously cares as much about her looks as Fiorina does, to have her face ridiculed by Trump and for his insults to dominate the news cycles for days on end, must have been extremely painful. So for her to respond with such class, conciseness, and dignity, trying to look strong, even though you could see she was hurting, was incredibly powerful.
So what is her IQ? According to scholar Jonathan Wai, the academic background of male Republican senators implies that 24.4% are in the top 1% of U.S. cognitive ability. The top 1% implies an IQ of 133+, so assuming their IQs are roughly normally distributed with a standard deviation of 15, this implies they have a mean IQ of 122. Although some of the men Fiorina debated are not politicians (i.e. Trump), but outsiders like Fiorina, the vast majority are governors or senators, so an IQ of 122 is probably a good approximation for the men Fiorina verbally dominated in her last two debates.
Given that Fiorina decisively trounced the competition when debating both second tier, and first tier nominees, it is reasonable to suspect she’s smarter than all 16 of her GOP rivals, with the possible exception of Ted Cruz, who reportedly scored extremely high on the LSAT.
So let’s say Fiorina is smarter than 15 of the 16 men she’s been competing with. Being smarter than 94% of a group of people with a mean IQ of 122 and an SD of 15, implies a towering IQ is 145, which would make her smarter than 99.9% of white Americans and would make her an astonishing 15 points smarter than the average U.S. president.