Ted Cruz announced an afternoon news conference and hinted that there would be a big announcement:
Join us in Indianapolis at 4 pm today for a major announcement!
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) April 27, 2016
It was suggested all over – Glenn Beck, Hot Air, Rush Limbaugh – that there could be only two reasons that Cruz would call this sort of conference: he’s either getting endorsed by the Indiana Governor or he’s announcing his VP pick.
I was going with option two, especially after I saw this tweet appear a little later in the afternoon:
Carly Fiorina on my flight to indy, wonder why! Not in first either
— Gary O'Donoghue (@BBCBlindGazza) April 26, 2016
And then, as expected, Cruz announced his VP choice: Carly Fiorina.
I wrote on Monday:
I wouldn’t be surprised if Cruz did try for the ‘hail Mary’ and announce Fiorina as his choice for VP. He’s all out of media oxygen right now and it is only going to get worse after tomorrow’s votes in the northeast. I doubt it will deliver him much in the way of additional votes and it will make it hard to bargain at the convention when he has little to offer Rubio or Kasich other than potentially empty promises instead of a grasped hand lifted skywards on the last night of the GOP’s Cleveland show. But a drowning man will reach out for anything that floats and Cruz, whether he wants to believe it or not, is drowning right now.
Cruz has thrown his ‘hail Mary’ and now we’re going to see how things fall.
Let’s consider a couple of the possible outcomes.
Best case scenario for Cruz is that Fiorina helps him pick up Indiana and salvage something in California. If she can help him do that then he’ll have a good chance of keeping Donald Trump below the 1237 delegates he needs to win the nomination on the first ballot. If it goes to a second ballot perhaps the pairing of Cruz-Fiorina will be palatable enough to the convention and the GOP establishment to win over enough delegates to their cause to pinch the nomination. Oh, sure, it’ll divide the party and it’ll bury Cruz’s sort-of ally Kasich, but Cruz wants the nomination and this is the only way he sees that he’ll be able to nail it.
Looking forward from there he’d be able to make a case that his ticket is the most diverse in the history of the country. For the first time a major party is running a ticket where – top and bottom – there is diversity. A Hispanic at the top of the ticket for the first time and a woman joining him on the ticket? The optics are very nice and the mainstream media will eat it up in a race against Clinton where identity is bound to be an issue.
But that’s the best case.
There’s also the worst case. The public perceive the announcement as a stunt from a desperate guy trying to take back the media narrative after a true shellacking at the hands of the frontrunner. Cruz not only lost every state to Trump on Tuesday night, he also lost every single county in every single state. Sure, the northeast is not his home demographic, but that’s a beating – and a bad one at that.
He’ll be mocked as the guy whose reaction to getting walloped in New York and then walloped again in Maryland, and Delaware, and Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania, and Connecticut…is to name a VP on the chance that the guy that most Republicans seem to prefer is outplayed on the convention floor in Cleveland. It’s more than a little arrogant to announce his VP choice before he even gets the nomination and it’ll look flat-out silly if he doesn’t beat Trump in Indiana.
What’s more likely of the two?
I think it’s more likely to go badly than go well – but then so does Cruz. That is the essence of the ‘hail Mary’ throw, after all. You don’t throw the ball 90 yards and hope your receiver is there to catch it unless you’ve got no other chance. To maintain the analogy, Cruz is heading into Indiana on 4th and 15 with only seconds left in the game. The only chance he has is to go long and he’ll lose if he doesn’t so why not, right?
Luckily for everyone watching this incredibly interesting race we’ll know soon enough if Cruz’s ‘hail Mary’ hits the mark. He’ll either get over the line in Indiana next week or Trump will take it. If the former, he still has a shot on the convention floor. If it’s the latter, then he’s all out of options.
Cruz might still be my preferred pick of the three for the top of the GOP ticket, but it’s hard to see him winning even with this Fiorina play.