Presidential candidate and Texas Senator Ted Cruz took the unusual step of announcing former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina as his vice presidential pick on Wednesday morning, launching a last-ditch effort to retake control of the race prior to the must-win Indiana primary on May 3rd.
The revelation came less than a day after Donald J. Trump swept all five of Tuesday’s northeastern primary states, hauling in well over 90 percent of their delegates and taking significant majorities of the popular vote in each contest. In Pennsylvania, where Mr. Trump had looked vulnerable in weeks past, the real estate mogul crushed Mr. Cruz, his closest competitor, by nearly 40 points.
The huge victories added more fuel to the growing media narrative that Mr. Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee and that his opponents, who are no longer mathematically capable of winning the nomination without a contested convention, are engaged in a desperate but ultimately futile attempt to stop him. Mr. Cruz’s announcement is a dramatic attempt to reverse this narrative before it can discourage Republican voters unsettled by the prospect of having Mr. Trump as their party’s nominee from voting in subsequent states, where strong anti-Trump turnout would almost certainly keep the brash businessman from earning the 1,237 delegates he needs to obtain the nomination.
Though not entirely surprising, Mr. Cruz’s tapping of Mrs. Fiorina for his presidential ticket does not seem to be an ideal strategic choice. According to the New York Times, Republicans familiar with the Cruz campaign’s internal survey data have indicated that having Fiorina on the ticket would only be worth “a couple points” in the upcoming primaries, and the former CEO’s lack of experience in government could prove to be a significant disadvantage in the general election. And though Mrs. Fiorina ran for the U.S. Senate in California, by far the most crucial state remaining on the Republican primary calendar, her campaign infrastructure there is long gone.
But she also brings some advantages. She is a strong debater and a cool, collected attack dog, and she would bring gender balance to a general election ticket against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Fiorina also has taken the fight to Donald Trump in the past; in one of the first presidential debates, she forced the businessman to play defense after she criticized a statement he made about her appearance in an interview with Rolling Stone.
Though drastic, Mr. Cruz’s decision to unveil his vice presidential pick in spite of his distant second-place position in the delegate race is a necessary gamble. Though risking the anger of voters who view it as a presumptuous, cheap bid for attention, the move earns the Texas senator crucial media coverage in the run-up to Indiana’s primary and challenges the Trump campaign’s narrative that anti-Trump Republicans should give up their cause and unite behind the New York businessman as their party’s nominee.
It also provides Mr. Cruz with the opportunity to make his own narrative stick. Campaigning in Indianapolis, the young senator was quick to declare that his campaign is not in vain. “I’m not getting to 1,237 delegates,” he remarked, “and Donald J. Trump is not getting to 1,237 delegates.”