Ted Cruz named Carly Fiorina as his running mate on Wednesday, an attempt to jump start his campaign after a bad week that saw the senator lose big in six primary contests.
Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, launched her own presidential bid last year. She rose to the top of the polls in the fall after a few stand-out debate performances put her on the map, but she dropped to the bottom of the pack as she struggled to turn her many fans into voters. She left the race after the New Hampshire primary, polling at just 2 percent nationally.
But Fiorina’s nine month bid taught us a lot about her strengths – and weaknesses – as a candidate. Here’s what she brings to the ticket.
Outsider credibility: When the race kicked off last year, Fiorina pitched herself as an outsider candidate whose business experience had prepared her to run the country. She had run a failing U.S. Senate campaign in 2010, but her lack of elected office impressed voters who were eager for an outsider.
While Cruz also sought to pitch himself as an outsider, he’s still a sitting senator. Furthermore, his growing endorsements and his recent truce with Ohio Gov. John Kasich have draw criticism that he’s part of the “establishment” he disparages. Fiorina joining his ticket is likely to bring some outsider energy back to his ticket.
A flawed business record: But with that outsider credibility comes a business record that’s riddled with political liabilities. As Hewlett-Packard’s CEO, she oversaw big layoffs and outsourcing, which dogged her during her Senate campaign and her presidential bid. That would surely be ammunition for attacks in a general election.
Superior oratory skills: Fiorina exploded onto the national stage last summer, when the relatively unknown candidate’s sharp rhetoric and superior debate skills wowed voters and proved she could take on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – sometimes in the same one-liner.
“I didn’t get a phone call from Bill Clinton before I jumped in the race. Did any of you get a phone call from Bill Clinton? I didn’t,” Fiorina famously quipped of Trump in the first debate. “Maybe it’s because I hadn’t given money to the foundation.”
Her talking points hit hard and often. As a candidate she repeated her greatest hits – one memorable one, “Unlike Hillary Clinton, I know that flying is an activity, not an accomplishment” – countless times. Expect to see her trained rhetoric seem repetitive the more she hits the trail as a vice presidential candidate.
Unrelenting drive: Fiorina’s campaign schedule was grueling. She packed days with event after event, speaking personally with as many voters as humanly possible at each event. She answered thousands of voters’ questions in her months on the trail, doing marathon Q&A sessions instead of stump speeches, working her own practiced talking points into answers in a way that felt organic and natural.
The Carly card? Having Fiorina on the ticket may well help Cruz woo women voters and exacerbate rival Trump’s problem with them. Trump criticized Fiorina’s face early in the Republican primary, earning Fiorina’s stinging retort that women “heard very clearly” what Trump said.
Fact-checker’s ire: As a candidate, Fiorina routinely made declarative statements that would later turn out to be untrue.
Fiorina championed deceptively edited videos that attacked Planned Parenthood, and infamously condemned a scene from the videos that did not exist. She decried women’s job losses under President Obama in another debate, only to have to correct herself as the number proved misleading. It was the same misleading number 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney had used and been corrected for in the last presidential cycle.
She also argued that a stream of military commanders “were retired early because they told President Obama things that he didn’t want to hear,” a claim fact-checkers saw little backing for; PolitiFact rated that claim “mostly false.”
While Cruz shares her staunch opposition to abortion – and continued reference of those videos – it’s something that’s bound to be a liability in the general election.
A former rival: As a super PAC supporting rival Kasich was quick to note on Wednesday, Fiorina attacked Cruz a fair amount while running against him as a candidate, and it might be problematic for the pair’s teamwork.
“He says whatever he needs to say to get elected, and then he’s going to do as he pleases,” she said in January. “I think people are tired of a political class that promises much and delivers much of the same.”
While her remarks may well work themselves into a rival’s attack ad, Trump has a similar liability, having once likened his top surrogate – Dr. Ben Carson – to a pedophile.