Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas announced former GOP candidate Carly Fiorina as his vice presidential candidate Wednesday.
The announcement comes after Senator Cruz’s abysmal losses in five Northeast primaries Tuesday and before Indiana’s primary on May 7. Beginning with his campaign alliance with fellow GOP presidential contender Ohio Gov. John Kasich earlier this week, Cruz has made it clear that a victory in Indiana is his best bet for besting Donald Trump.
So if Indiana is so important, how is Cruz's new vice president helping win the state's 57 delegates?
"The one possible thing she could bring to Cruz is some of the more business-oriented Republicans in the state who are maybe leery of the extremism of Trump and not so keen on Cruz," Edward Carmines, professor of political science at Indiana University, tells The Christian Science Monitor in a phone interview. "And maybe these [Republicans] would have voted for Kasich before he stopped campaigning here. So the fact she was in the business community might draw voters to Cruz."
But Dr. Carmines notes that this conclusion is a stretch: Ms. Fiorina's politics and experience won't make a big impact for Cruz in Indiana. Instead, political scientists agree that Cruz's VP announcement has less to do with Fiorina herself, and more to do with timing.
"I can't see what Fiorina gives him in Indiana," William Bianco, professor of political science at Indiana University, tells The Christian Science Monitor. "[Fiorina has] no local connection, doesn't cut into Trump's supporters here or elsewhere. Cruz is losing [and he] has to do something, but this is the Hail Mary or Hail Marys. No matter how I squint, I don't see the logic."
Instead of announcing Fiorina for specific policy reasons, Cruz needed a dramatic move to change the narrative away from talk of a possible "President Trump" ahead of Indiana's primary.
"What this announcement did was create a media bubble of positive attention for Cruz. It's a dramatic move – a 'Hail Carly' pass," Larry Sabato, founder and director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, tells The Monitor in a phone interview. "And that's how [Cruz's] campaign conceives of it, too. There is nothing specific to Indiana. It's just that he did it in Indiana before their primary so it might add a few points. People respond to headlines – to a degree."
In other words, if his goal was media coverage, it mattered when he announced a VP candidate – not who he announced.
"Cruz's aim is to get free media stories (like this one) in bunches, to knock Trump's Tuesday successes down the newsfeeds a bit," writes The Monitor’s Peter Grier. "Get a little buzz going. Rally the faithful. Give your supporters and the ravenous reportorial hordes something to chew on besides the question of whether Trump is now the presumptive nominee."
But Fiorina's gender could also help Cruz in his last-ditch fight against Trump. According to a Gallup poll earlier this month, 70 percent of US women have an unfavorable view of Trump. And while this rating drops when looking at just Republican women specifically, Cruz could be baiting Trump into making yet another sexist comment against Fiorina, potentially further alienating more female voters.
"Few people get under Trump's skin like Carly Fiorina," notes Dr. Sabato.
Further working against Trump's favor, Fiorina has proven to be a skilled verbal assailant against Trump. The former Hewlett Packard executive might be better than any other former GOP opponent at exposing Trump's discriminatory comments for what they are.
"Mindful of the gender gap often evident in Mr. Trump's polling, Cruz allies hope that Mrs. Fiorina will prove a capable foil to him, as she did while besting him in a series of debate exchanges during her own candidacy," explains The New York Times Wednesday. "Another slashing comment directed at Mrs. Fiorina's appearance or gender could have grace consequences for Mr. Trump, especially with female voters he would need to win over to compete in the fall."
It's easy to understand why Cruz was looking to revive his campaign before the Indiana primary. If Trump fails to win most of Indiana’s 57 delegates on May 3, he will require sweeps in California and other Western states such as Montana and South Dakota (who currently aren't too rosy on his candidacy) in order to lock up 1,237 delegates before the convention.
But Indiana's importance is being somewhat exaggerated, says Sabato.
"They promised us that Wisconsin was going to be a game changer, and it would be all over for Trump. And guess what? It's not," says Sabato. "Cruz could still win Indiana and Trump could get the nomination. Would it make it harder? Yes. Is it still very possible? Yes."
And Cruz had more factors working in his favor in Wisconsin than he does in Indiana, notes Carmines, such as political endorsements like that of Gov. Scott Walker (which he doesn't have in Indiana). "And we are at a different point in the campaign," notes Carmines. "After picking up those five states, Trump's momentum is pretty strong."
Cruz's partnership with Fiorina (as well as his recent partnership with Kasich) may prove to be helpful in Indiana, but even an Indiana victory won't spell success for the Cruz campaign.
"The outcome is still murky," warns Sabato. "People always want to bring down the curtain before it’s time for the play to end. You can't do that – you have to be patient. Things can change for either Trump or Cruz."