When Ted Cruz’s campaign announced this morning that it would make a “major” announcement today, it was easy to assume that the far-right senator was pulling the plug on his campaign. After all, the Texan has already been mathematically eliminated from winning a majority of pledged delegates, and Cruz’s third-place finishes in several recent primaries – including four of yesterday’s five contests – suggest his entire operation is steadily moving closer to failure.
But in an unusually brazen display of chutzpah, Cruz, instead of quitting, has decided to introduce his running mate.
Ted Cruz will tap Carly Fiorina to be his running mate if he is the Republican Party’s nominee for president, NBC News confirms.Fiorina, a former HP CEO who highlighted her business background during her own 2016 run, dropped her unsuccessful White House bid in February. She endorsed Cruz one month later and has been a frequent surrogate for him on the campaign trail.
I’m not generally in the habit of agreeing with Newt Gingrich, but he said on Fox News last night, “The idea that the guy who’s losing is now gonna announce his vice presidential nominee doesn’t make any sense at all to me because it makes it look like the person’s out of touch with reality. Aren’t they aware of the fact that they’re not winning?”
It’s a fairly compelling point. Ordinarily, the presidential candidates who introduce their running mates are the candidates who are actually going to win their party’s nomination.
The only modern exception is Ronald Reagan’s 1976 campaign – he named Sen. Richard Schweiker as his running mate ahead of the convention in the hopes of satisfying the GOP’s centrist wing, which existed at the time – but that year, Reagan was on his way to competing in a contested convention he had a credible chance of winning.
Cruz, on the other hand, has about 560 delegates – far short of half of his 1,237 goal – which makes this entire gambit appear extraordinarily audacious. While the senator may be looking to change the subject after his recent failures at the ballot box, and may also hope that a VP announcement represents a display of strength, given the circumstances it’s actually a move that reeks of desperation.
The question, of course, is whether it’ll work.
Time will tell, obviously, but for a variety of reasons, the odds aren’t in Cruz’s favor. First, Fiorina was herself a pretty horrible candidate, with an awful record, who failed to impress much of anyone. Note, for example, that when Fiorina quit – after finishing seventh in Iowa and New Hampshire – her favorability rating was down to just 25%. The more voters got to know the California Republican, the less they liked her.
Second, there’s the unfortunate record of things Fiorina said about the candidate with whom she’s now running. It was, after all, just a few months ago that Fiorina told a national television audience, “Ted Cruz is just like any other politician. He says one thing in Manhattan, he says another thing in Iowa… He says whatever he needs to say to get elected, and then he’s going to do as he pleases. I think people are tired of a political class that promises much and delivers much of the same.”
I’ll look forward to Fiorina explaining why she no longer believes what she said three months ago. (Fiorina also once said that Cruz “cannot possibly beat Hillary Clinton.” Oops.)
Third, Cruz, after just four years in elected office, may have benefited from a running mate with relevant experience and an impressive resume. Instead, he’s tapped a political amateur who’s literally never held an elected office, who failed in her only two campaigns, and who’s background in the private sector can charitably be described as unfortunate.
Their combined four years in elected office would be the least experienced major-party presidential ticket since the Landon/Knox in 1936. (That ticket carried literally just two states that year.)
Finally, this pairing will also renew questions about the odd relationship between Fiorina and Cruz’s super PAC. Remember last year when Keep the Promise made a mysterious $500,000 payment to CARLY for America and no one could explain why? Now that the two are going to share a ticket, expect this question to come up quite a bit more.
And perhaps worst of all, Bill Kristol said today that “Cruz-Fiorina would actually be a good ticket.” Given Kristol’s uninterrupted track record of failed predictions, Cruz and Fiorina might want to rethink this whole endeavor.
Update: Following up on a recent post, I should mention that candidates like Cruz, who can’t actually secure the nomination ahead of the convention, aren’t necessarily in control of who the vice presidential nominee is going to be. Technically, Cruz isn’t exactly tapping Fiorina for his ticket, so much as he’s asking Republican delegates to give her her the VP nomination – a suggestion delegates may or may not honor, depending on their wishes in July.