On Monday’s Good Morning America, ABC News’ Jon Karl wondered aloud if Ted Cruz might unveil his intended running mate later this week, reasonably suggesting that Cruz will find himself starved for positive media attention in the wake of another big Trump Tuesday. Watch, then we’ll discuss:
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) April 25, 2016
it spawned — into a terrific post gaming out the advantages and drawbacks of Cruz rolling out his VP pick over the next few days. Click through for his full analysis, but here’s his bottom line: Even though such a move might strike many voters as just another media stunt atop the Kasich alliance gimmick (which is less of a stunt, and more a desperation play), and although Cruz would be severely hampering his negotiating position prior to a contested convention (where flexibility and incentivizing goodies are essential), it’s probably still worth trying, on balance:
Cruz is going to get blown out again [Tuesday] night, which raises the question of how he wants to spend the next week ahead of the big vote in Indiana. If he does nothing, he’ll spend most of his time fielding questions about collusion with John Kasich and whether his wipeout in the northeast proves that the party has come around to Trump. If he names a VP, he’ll spend most of his time talking about his veep pick and how it fits into his vision for America. That’s a move a would-be nominee makes, not an also-ran. Karl suggests, probably correctly, that Carly Fiorina is the frontrunner. Not only was Fiorina the first former candidate to endorse Cruz, she was the first big name to support him after various Washington Republicans had signed on with Rubio.
If Cruz were to name her this week, he’d got a ton of buzz for putting a woman on the ticket and Fiorina would instantly be elevated to a super-surrogate who could barnstorm Indiana and other states as a draw in her own right to turn voters out for Cruz. Fiorina was also the most effective attack dog in the field against Trump during the debates. If you wanted someone on the trail on your behalf making the case for why a contested convention, with all the chaos it entails, is a better option than nominating Donald Trump, that’s who you’d pick. And don’t forget the regional play at stake: Fiorina graduated from Stanford and ran for Senate in 2010 in California, by far the most important state left on the board…Indiana is must-win. If picking someone this week would help win it, do it and worry about Cleveland the day after Indiana’s in the bag.
Solid reasoning, but the drawbacks are still quite significant. Perhaps Cruz, ever the cautious and calculating pol, would search for a middle ground solution…like strategically leaking that he’s vetting someone, or someones. Voila:
— John McCormack (@McCormackJohn) April 25, 2016
I reacted online by expressing zero surprise at this bulletin; Carly is a natural choice for Cruz on several levels. In fact, the duo already resembles a ticket when they appear together, starting with her surprise endorsement announcement last month. Fiorina exited the race with dignity, having done herself quite a lot of good among rank-and-file Republican voters, among whom she is well-liked. Plus, her skill set as a sharp, ruthless and disciplined attack messenger against both Trump and Hillary Clinton makes her uniquely valuable to Cruz both against his current rival, as well as the one he hopes to face in the fall. The on-the-record source for the Weekly Standard’s story, by the way, is Sarah Isgur Flores, a top aide to Fiorina. She’s a discreet, careful professional, which reflects the style of her boss. It’s virtually inconceivable that Flores would have tossed this nugget to several reporters without the Cruz camp’s buy-in. Team Cruz (cough, cough) isn’t denying the story, with the Texas Senator’s campaign manager tweeting more grist into the Veepstakes mill:
We have narrowed our VP candidates to a short list and are going thru the normal processes associated with picking a running mate.#CruzCrew
The question is whether this little boomlet of attention will capture enough media oxygen that it’ll help sustain Cruz through a rocky few days this week, or whether this disclosure is designed to prime the pump for a splashy announcement in the next few days. Perhaps there’s a full-blown rollout plan in place. Or perhaps Cruz and company will reassess based on the nature and volume of the media narrative after tonight’s inevitable Trumpfest. As you ponder what might be in the cards, I’ll leave you with this flashback: