Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas just lobbed a “Hail Mary” pass in a desperate bid to revive his effort to block Donald Trump’s drive for the GOP presidential nomination. He did it Wednesday afternoon by announcing his choice of former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina as his vice presidential “running mate.”
“After a great deal of time and thought, after a great deal of consideration and prayer, I have come to the conclusion that if I am nominated to be president of the United States, that I will run on a ticket with my vice presidential nominee, Carly Fiorina,” Cruz told a cheering crowd in Indianapolis.
This is the same Fiorina who dropped out of the Republican presidential campaign in February after dismal showing in the New Hampshire primary and Iowa caucuses and after tangling with Trump over his criticism of her business acumen and her physical appearance. On the surface, at least, it’s hard to see how a candidate who failed to win a single state and left the campaign with single digits in the polls will help Cruz at this point.
Fiorina is a skillful debater who is ever eager to attack Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. In recent weeks, she has scrounged for delegates for Cruz in Indiana, which is now looming as the likely setting for the Texas conservative’s last stand against Trump next week.
As someone who has actually beaten Trump, Cruz sees himself as the GOP establishment’s last hope to deny the New York billionaire the party’s nomination. He even struck a deal with rival John Kasich in which the Ohio governor would avoid Indiana to enhance Cruz’s prospects of winning while Cruz would cede Oregon and New Mexico to Kasich in the coming weeks.
But Cruz has been so badly battered by the Trump express in the past two weeks – getting crushed in New York last week and then finishing second or third to Trump in five Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states on Tuesday night – that his scheme to deny Trump a first-ballot victory at the national convention in Cleveland seems increasingly far-fetched, even with a running mate.
Trump’s rout in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware mathematically foreclosed Cruz’s chances of amassing the 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination, while putting Trump within hailing distance of the nomination. Trump even declared himself the “presumptive Republican nominee” during his victory celebration last night.
Still, Cruz and Kasich continue to hold out feint hope they can deny him a majority on the first ballot in Cleveland in July and then somehow woo away delegates to win on a second, third or even fourth ballot.
How Fiorina will help Cruz achieve this goal is far from clear. The former corporate executive and unsuccessful Senate candidate in California in 2010 endorsed Cruz in March and has been one of his most vigorous surrogates. According to The Washington Post, Fiorina joined Cruz’s wife, Heidi, on a busy tour of Wisconsin prior to Cruz’s victory there. She subsequently traveled to Fargo, North Dakota, to help Cruz win the state’s GOP convention.
Fiorina entered the once-crowded GOP field last year as the Republican’s best response to Hillary Clinton. Fiorina can skewer the former Secretary of State on issues ranging from foreign policy to abortion without being accused of sexism like her male competitors, as The New York Times noted. After being consigned by the networks to the “undercard” debates” for the lesser candidates, Fiorina was so impressive that she was bumped up into the prime-time debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, last February.
It was during that debate that Fiorina stood up to the blustery Trump and put him in his place on national television for his insulting remarks about her appearance. But it was all downhill from there. Fiorina never was able to break out of the back of the pack before her campaign funding and support fizzled.
During her acceptance speech today, Fiorina called Trump and Clinton as “two sides of the same coin.”
“They’re both liberal, we know that,” she said. “But Hillary Clinton, like so many politicians, has made her millions selling access and influence from inside the system, and Donald Trump has made his billions buying people like Hillary Clinton. They are not going to challenge the system that has sold us all down the river.”
For sure, there may be some advantages for Cruz to announce his vice presidential choice at this critical juncture. With so much attention being given to Trump’s Tuesday night victories and major foreign policy address Wednesday afternoon, Cruz’s choice of Fiorina was certain to draw considerable media coverage over the next 24 hours and essentially change the subject.
The last time a Republican presidential candidate chose a running mate before the convention was in 1976 when Ronald Reagan attempted to breathe new life into his challenge to President Gerald Ford by naming Senator Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania as his would-be vice president. Reagan ended up losing the delegate race to Ford by little more than 100 votes.
“Picking a VP by someone other than the nominee hasn’t happened since 1976 — so a once-every-forty-years phenomenon calls for coverage,” University of Virginia political scientist Larry J. Sabato said today in an email. “Maybe this creates a bump for Cruz. And no one gets under Trump’s skin like Carly (Look at that face) Fiorina. That’s not a bad formula for Cruz, though it may not work.”