Politics & Policy

What Fiorina Brings to Cruz’s Ticket

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Our Tim Alberta reports that Ted Cruz will name Carly Fiorina his running mate for the presidency this afternoon.

How does she help Cruz, who is currently sputtering in second place and running out of chances to beat Donald Trump? She’s strong and polished on the stump, equally at home giving a big policy speech, answering questions at a town hall, or offering one-liners on a late-night talk show. She’s an outsider, in a year when political neophytes are all the rage. And most important of all, she has the best chance of any potential running mate to negate presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s political strengths.

“She tweets about women’s rights in this country and takes money from governments that deny women the most basic human rights,” Fiorina said at last year’s CPAC, referencing the Clinton Foundation’s unsavory donors. “I come from a world where speeches are not accomplishments. Activity isn’t accomplishment. Title isn’t accomplishment. I come from a world where you have to actually do something; you have to produce results.”

Fiorina can rip into Clinton without fear of being called sexist. She can also coopt Clinton’s message to female voters, letting them know that she’s been through exactly the same aggravations and indignities they’ve experienced in their everyday lives. She made a point of claiming the feminist mantle away from Democrats even as she announced that she was suspending her campaign:

Do not let others define you. Do not listen to anyone who says you have to vote a certain way or for a certain candidate because you’re a woman. That is not feminism. Feminism doesn’t shut down conversations or threaten women. It is not about ideology. It is not a weapon to wield against your political opponent. A feminist is a woman who lives the life she chooses and uses all her God-given gifts.

Cruz will, of course, have to wrest the nomination from Trump if he wants the chance to unleash Fiorina on Clinton. But here, too, she has the potential to help him, highlighting the real-estate mogul’s toxic attitudes toward women. One of Trump’s most infamous moments in 2015 came when he was quoted scoffing at Fiorina’s face. Confronted with the remark on the debate stage, he offered a lame non-apology to Fiorina, and she cut him down to size with a single curt phrase: “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.” Cruz needs to weaken Trump significantly in the coming weeks, outperforming expectations in Indiana and California while continuing to persuade convention delegates that Trump is radioactive for female voters. Fiorina should make both tasks easier.

#share#But there are also reasons for the Cruz campaign to temper its optimism. As impressive as candidate Fiorina was to many Republicans, her campaign flamed out quite quickly. And while not many pollsters asked voters about her this year, the ones who did found her favorability rating in the 20s — it peaked at 30 — and her unfavorability in the high 30s to mid-40s. There are, in short, other, more popular Republicans, including women, whom Cruz could have chosen, and there isn’t much evidence Fiorina would help him in any key general-election swing states.

Will Fiorina help Cruz in the California presidential primary? Though she’s a known commodity statewide, having lost the 2010 Senate race to Barbara Boxer, there’s little evidence that California Republicans see her as a favorite daughter. At one point, in October, she rose to 13 percent in polling of likely Republican voters there. But by January, she was back down to 3 percent.

#related#If nothing else, the Cruz-Fiorina ticket will sharpen the contrast for Republicans from here on out. Nearly 40 percent of the party’s voters are behind Trump, content to ignore the ominous polling, the reports of infighting at the top levels of his campaign, and the contradictory policy proposals that come out of his mouth.

By picking Fiorina, Cruz is practically shouting that he and his new running mate can deliver victory and mitigate the gender gap in November, while Trump cannot. We’ll know soon whether enough voters heed his cries.

— Jim Geraghty is the senior political correspondent for National Review.

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