Thursday, April 28, 2016
Ted Cruz Takes a Partner
After his humiliating primary defeats on Tuesday, Ted Cruz tried to change the story on Wednesday by announcing that he would select Carly Fiorina as his running mate, should he receive the nomination.
The announcement certainly impacted the headlines for the day. However, in these circumstances, it comes across as an act of desperation. Typically, a Presidential candidate announces a running mate in the days before the Convention, or at least after he has secured the nomination. A candidate in second place with many more primary elections ahead looks more like a gimmick rather than a serious decision.
Of course it is a gimmick, but Cruz is at the point where he has to try some gimmicky out of the box actions if he wants to change the trajectory. What exactly though does this stunt hope it will accomplish? There are two questions: Why Fiorina and why now?
Fiorina is from California. If this ticket put California in play, that would be a game changer. However, California is far too liberal to go Republican, especially for Cruz. Fiorina could not even win the Senate election in the State in her own right, and that was in 2010, which was a landslide year for Congressional Republicans. Winning her home state was certainly not a serious consideration. Possibly Cruz thinks her California home might provide him with some help in the upcoming Republican Primary in that State. It seems unlikely that even in the primary election Fiorina will get much traction for being the home town favorite.
Fiorina is a good debater. She received positive attention for many of her debate performances, even if she was often in the "kiddie table" debates. Perhaps her debating skills had some influence on the decision.
Fiorina is a known quantity. Opposition research probably did not turn up much about her that is not already known. She is not terribly controversial and tends not to have high negatives at least with most voters.
Most likely, the fact that Fiorina is a woman was major factor. The selection of a woman highlights Trump's negative numbers with women. It puts those statements that Trump has made about women front and center in the news again. Further, it blunts any criticisms that Cruz is anti-woman. Cruz has been accused of opposing many so-called women's issues. Having a female on the campaign team helps to nullify that. If Cruz gets to the general, a female VP candidate may also help him blunt the female support for Hillary Clinton.
Selecting Fiorina changes the headlines. We are not talking about Cruz coming in third in most of Tuesday's primaries. We are talking about his VP selection.
Having a ticket now gives voters in the remaining primaries a reason to take a second look at Cruz. They have a better idea of the type of decisions he will make. He did not pick some nut case conservative or religious zealot. He picked someone who is not too establishment but also not an unknown. Perhaps voters may think he is not as extreme as they thought.
The new name also gives him someone to send around the States for personal experiences. People have not been showing up for Mrs. Cruz appearances. Maybe they will show up for Fiorina appearances.
Will it Work?
Probably not. It comes across as desperate. Fiorina has no independent constituency that she brings to the Cruz campaign.
Already, Donald Trump has taken back the headlines in the way he does best: by saying something offensive (Hillary getting the nomination just because she is a woman) and by saying something off the wall (talking about staying at a Holiday Inn Express). The 24 hour news commentators are already talking more about those comments than Cruz's VP pick.
Is This Unprecedented?
While this is unusual, it is not unprecedented. In 1976, a loosing candidate Ronald Reagan announced that he would pick Pennsylvania Senator Richard Schweiker, despite the fact that he was trailing President Ford in delegates. Reagan hoped the announcement might sway some delegates. It did not. Ford went on to win the nomination. Also, the announcement took place just before the Convention, not while Primaries were still ongoing.
Cruz's decision was an interesting swing for the fences, hail Mary, or whatever sports analogy you prefer. But such moves are always an act of desperation and usually fail. That will likely be the situation here.