From the Thursday Morning Jolt . . .
Another Big Curveball in an Unpredictable Year: The Cruz-Fiorina Option
What people are saying about the potential Ted Cruz–Carly Fiorina ticket . . .
It soon became apparent to Cruz’s allies that Fiorina — more than Rick Perry, Steve King, or any other high-profile politician — was proving to be Cruz’s most effective sidekick. She complemented his talents (stage presence) and covered his weaknesses (retail politicking). Most important, Cruz, who has few close relationships, seemed to have genuine chemistry with her.
From their first days together on the campaign trail, he forged a bond with his former rival. Cruz’s wife, Heidi, also hit it off with her. And at a “Women for Cruz” event in Madison, Wis., in late March, Fiorina held hands with Cruz’s young daughters as they walked on stage; held the arm of Cruz’s elderly mother as she exited; and chatted with Heidi Cruz throughout the event. On stage Wednesday, Fiorina broke into song briefly, chanting a tune for Cruz’s daughters.
Cruz may be banking on Fiorina helping him in California, where she won the GOP Senate primary in 2010 (grabbing 56 percent of the vote — 1.3 million primary voters — by running to the center of conservative Chuck DeVore and liberal Republican Tom Campbell) and got 4.2 million votes in November, more than Meg Whitman in that year’s gubernatorial race or Neel Kashkari in 2014. But again, her real appeal is questionable, since she did end up losing to Barbara Boxer in a great Republican year.
I’ll be surprised if this stunt is met with anything other than widespread derision. Here’s a guy who’s down by millions of votes, and hundreds of delegates, and who’s obviously worried that the window to stop his surging rival is closing. So with literally no path to the nomination before a potential second ballot at July’s convention, he’s going to . . . announce his Vice Presidential running mate?
We’ll see how the optics play out, but I suspect it’ll look and feel like something out of Ted Cruz’s land of make believe, in which voters aren’t voting the way they are, and the Manhattan media are the only true villains. Fiorina is an accomplished woman and a sound political performer who possesses an elite intellect and temperament. To her credit, she’s doing everything she can to help stop a man she and many conservatives view as an unelectable, uninformed, untethered embarrassment to the party. But this maneuver has the stench of a “final throes” spasm from a campaign that fears it is doomed.
It’s possible, though, that none of this will matter all that much, in part because policies and records of accomplishments simply don’t seem to matter much in this campaign. Thanks largely to Trump, it’s almost entirely a battle of media-ready personalities and personas. Fiorina, in some sense, is just a supporting character from early in the season returning to make a cameo appearance — or, if Cruz somehow pulls out a win, to become a regular.
Cruz understands that the media has a vested interest in making it seem like Trump’s Tuesday was a Really Big Deal and that the race is all but over. They have a pecuniary interest in doing so because if Trump wins, that will be a ratings bonanza for them that will last for the next six months. They also have an [sic] professional interest in doing so, because the news media never does itself a favor by calling any given story “no big deal.”
. . . Ted Cruz understood that it was important to give the media something else – anything, really – to talk about. And give them something to talk about he did, by announcing Carly Fiorina as his running mate. Substantively, the pick of Fiorina is relatively inconsequential to the ongoing fight with Donald Trump. From a media standpoint, it was a rousing success.
Yesterday reminded us that Carly Fiorina is really good on the stump. After weeks of watching Trump’s stream-of-consciousness performance art of bluster, it was refreshing to watch a Republican candidate hitting all the right emotional notes, with a coherent theme.
My main takeaway from the news is that the Cruz campaign is now offering the delegates in Cleveland a stark, defining choice: Facing Hillary Clinton in November, do you want a Republican ticket that exacerbates the gender gap with Trump-Whoever or one who minimizes it with Cruz-Fiorina? Cruz is still hanging in there against Clinton in the head-to-head polling, while Trump is way behind. No, there’s no guarantee that Fiorina would dramatically alter the gender gap; McCain lost women by a wide margin with Sarah Palin on the ticket. But Fiorina can hit Hillary in ways no male Republican can.
While Trump was on his best behavior last night . . .
Campaigning ahead of Indiana’s critical Tuesday primary, Trump gave Fiorina a free pass, instead going after Cruz for picking a running mate at all. “First of all you have to look. Cruz can’t win. What’s he doing picking vice presidents?” Trump said, comparing Cruz to a baseball team that had already lost the World Series. “He is the first presidential candidate in the history of this country who’s mathematically eliminated from being president who chose a vice presidential candidate.”
. . . how likely is it that in the coming days or weeks, Trump says something offensive, insulting or stupid about Fiorina? And how many GOP delegates want to send the walking misogynist gaffe-o-matic as their standard bearer against the first woman nominated by a major party for president?