On Wednesday, one week after losing all five primaries in the Northeast and one week prior to the “must win” Indiana primary, Ted Cruz took the unusual step of selecting Carly Fiorina as his running mate.
Donald Trump has won 954 delegates and is only 283 delegates short of the 1,237 needed to win the Republican presidential nomination. Cruz has won 562 delegates and has no path to winning the nomination outright even if he sweeps all the remaining contests.
Only once in the past half-century has any major party candidate selected his vice president prior to winning the nomination. In 1976, incumbent Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan were locked in a close race for the Republican nomination.
Going into the convention, Ford was 24 delegates short of the 1,130 needed to win. Reagan was 96 votes short of the majority. In an attempt to secure the support of enough delegates to win, Reagan announced that Sen. Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania would be his vice president.
The selection of the moderate Schweiker disappointed many conservatives and failed to convince enough Pennsylvania delegates to support Reagan. Ford won the nomination by 117 votes.
Many critics see desperation in Cruz’s selection of Fiorina. It is much like the university student who tells his professor that a family member died in order to avoid a final exam.
As a university professor for 35 years, I was always amazed by the relationship between exams and deaths in the family. I once had a student ask to not take the final since his mother just died. I reminded the student that he asked to avoid a previous exam because his mother died. Without missing a beat, he responded, “My father remarried.”
Trump called Cruz’s action “a desperate attempt to save a failing campaign.” Cruz not only lost all five of the primaries in the Northeast, but he failed to get 25 percent of the votes in any of the five states.
Why Fiorina and why now? Since Cruz cannot win the nomination outright, his only hope is to prevent Trump from getting 1,237 delegates and hope that on the second ballot, when many delegates will not be bound, that they will turn to Cruz.
The arguments for Fiorina relate in part to Trump’s weakness with women voters.
Trump previously attacked Fiorina’s “ugly face” during the primaries, just as he recently attacked Heidi Cruz’s personal appearance.
Trump attacked journalist Megyn Kelly after one of the primary debates saying that she had blood coming out of her “whatever.” He would later say he refused “to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo because that would be politically incorrect.” Of course, Trump called her a bimbo even though he said he would never do that.
Just a few days ago, Trump said Hillary Clinton would never have won so many Democratic primaries if she were a man. He accused her of playing the “gender card” and said most women did not like her.
Another reason for Fiorina’s selection is that she can attack Clinton without being accused of sexism. In fact, Fiorina accused Clinton of tweeting “about women’s rights in this country and takes money from governments denying the most basic human rights.” Like many vice presidential nominees, Fiorina would be the lead attack dog.
Cruz also hopes that Fiorina’s outsider status will help in negating some of Trump’s outsider appeal.
Finally, Cruz is hoping that Fiorina will help him win in California where she ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010. Critics note that Fiorina lost that election by a million votes and then moved to Virginia.
Critics point out that Fiorina failed to generate much support in any of the contests and did not win a single delegate. They also point out that her favorable ratings were in the mid-20s range, while her unfavorables ran from the mid-30s to the mid-40s. Finally, critics point out that voters vote for the candidate at the top of the ticket, and not for the vice president.
The options are closing fast for Cruz. He had to do something to stop the bleeding. Based on past history, Fiorina will probably be no more helpful for Cruz than Schweiker was for Reagan.
Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg. Column courtesy of Context Florida.