What a difference a debate makes: Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina has seen a major bump in support following last week’s CNN debate and now sits second, behind front-runner Donald Trump.

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The former Hewlett-Packard CEO and the sole woman in the race for the Republican nomination saw a 12-percentage-point jump in support, rising from 3 per cent support before the debate to 15 per cent, according to a national CNN/ORC poll released Monday.

The poll of Republican and Republican-leaning voters was conducted between Sept. 17 to 19, the three days following the debate.

READ MORE: What you need to know about GOP debate star Carly Fiorina

The increased show of support can be attributed in part to her strong performance and her show of force against outspoken Trump, who dropped to 24 per cent support from 32 per cent in the previous CNN/ORC poll conducted between Sept. 4 to 8.

But it was also Fiorina’s first time speaking to a primetime audience, having been at the earlier debate for less popular candidates in the last round. The primetime CNN debate was watched by 23 million people, while Fiorina’s showing in the so-called “Happy Hour” debate on Aug. 6 was viewed by just six million people.

Fiorina’s rise also came as Ben Carson, securely in second place going into the debate, faltered.

READ MORE: Muslim shouldn’t be president, says Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson

The former neurosurgeon dropped from 19 per cent in the earlier CNN/ORC survey to 14 per cent — one point below Fiorina — after what many saw as a weak performance in his second debate.

Rounding out the top four candidates, those with double-digit support, is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who was also seen as one of the more formidable performers on the stage last Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, in Simi Valley, California.

Fact-checking Fiorina

Being in the spotlight is also puts Fiorina’s credentials and beliefs under the microscope. Now that she’s seen as a serious contender in the race, although primary and caucus season doesn’t get underway until February and it’s still another 413 days until Election Day, her comments are subject to much more scrutiny.

Two comments she made during the debate have been debunked, although her right-wing base may not see it that way.

Taking on a personal tone, Fiorina discussed the 2009 death of her stepdaughter, Lori Ann, who struggled with substance abuse and bulimia.

“We must invest more in the treatment of drugs. I agree with Sen. [Rand] Paul. I agree with states’ rights. But, we are misleading young people when we tell them that marijuana is just like having a beer. It’s not.”

But as the Washington Post. later reported, a 2010 study published in the widely respected medical journal The Lancet found marijuana is less dangerous than harder drugs and even alcohol.

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The second comment to stoke controversy was one the 61-year-old candidate made about Planned Parenthood and a series of undercover videos purporting to show doctors discussing the sale of fetal tissue for profit and which fuelled a successful Republican-led Congressional vote to defund the organization for one year.

“Anyone who has watched this videotape, 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,” Fiorina said during the debate.

The series of videos she was referring to were put out by an anti-abortion group called the Center for Medical Progress.

READ MORE: 4 things to know about an anti-abortion group’s Planned Parenthood videos

The videos (even the ones claimed to be unedited) are manipulated. But the footage Fiorina described was not taken during the Planned Parenthood stings and its circumstances surrounding it are in question.

“The Center for Medical Progress says the source of the footage is the Grantham Collection, an organization that hopes to stem abortion by promoting graphic images of the procedure. We don’t know the circumstances behind this video: where it came from, under what conditions it was obtained, or even if this fetus was actually aborted (as opposed to a premature birth or miscarriage).”

Planned Parenthood, an organization the provides abortions as well as sexual and women’s health care, including cancer screening, does collect and provide fetal tissue for research. But, it can only legally receive minimal money for costs associated with the collection, storage and transport of the materials.

There’s also the question the sale of HP printers to Iran while Fiorina was at the helm of the Fortune 500 company and while U.S. companies were prohibited from doing trade with the Islamic Republic.

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, she said she had no knowledge of the sale because it was a third-party company that was responsible for the deal.

Fiorina, on the campaign trail, has been critical of the deal the Obama administration struck to ease sanctions on Iran in exchange for the Iranian government curbing its nuclear ambitions and opening up to international inspections.

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