Ted Cruz has been on the way to losing the Republican nomination to Donald Trump for a while now, and he knows it. Regardless of what anyone thinks of either candidate, it is clear that Trump has been gaining steam precisely as Cruz has been losing it. The unmistakable proof that the Trump campaign has hit a tipping point, if one were to contend he had yet to do so previously, surely came with the primary results on Tuesday evening, wherein he dominated the five contests held in Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.
In the face of Trump’s resounding success earlier this week, Cruz knew he had to shake things up if he has any shot of besting Trump. His “go-to” move, apparently, was to name Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO and herself an unsuccessful candidate for the 2016 Republican nomination, as his vice-presidential running mate.
The selection of Fiorina seems a bit of a head-scratcher. While there is little question that part of what entered Cruz’s thinking is that she is a woman of particular note, her performance as a candidate this season was underwhelming to say the least, and she struggled mightily to break through to female GOP voters, in particular. Although Fiorina announced her candidacy last May, by December, according to a USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll, she had managed to garner support from just 1% of all female GOP voters.
The reality is that choosing candidates based at all on race and/or gender considerations seems to be a different kind of animal for Republicans than it is for Democrats. While Democratic voters seem to swoon whenever a person of color or a female competes for office under their brand, the Republican electorate does not appear to get terribly worked up over that sort of thing. Dr. Ben Carson never really gained traction with black voters, and Herman Cain’s run for the White House back in the election of 2012 was similarly unable to resonate. As for Sarah Palin’s selection (by John McCain) in 2008 as the first female Republican vice-presidential candidate in history, there was no help to McCain there; Palin polled more negatively than positively with women during that campaign.
One of the distinct problems with Fiorina, too, is that, as a candidate for political office, her demonstrated track record is not good. She lost a U.S. Senate bid to Barbara Boxer in 2010, and, as mentioned, her candidacy for president this time around never really went much of anywhere. In other words, there appears to be little groundswell of interest in Fiorina such that that there is anything there for Cruz into which to tap. While the same could be said of Biden’s selection by Obama in 2008, again, that is a very different situation – that year, the buzz was all about Obama, the first truly legitimate (in the view of many) black Democratic candidate for president in the modern era, and it is likely he could have picked a squirrel as his running mate and still won.
In the end, Cruz threw a Hail Mary, and like the actual pass hurled in a real football game, while we always see on sports news shows the exciting highlights of those that are completed, much more plentiful are those we do not see, because they were not successful. By definition, the Hail Mary has a low completion percentage, and that applies as much to those thrown in politics as in football; we’re not likely to see much celebrating on the Cruz sidelines from here on out.
By Robert G. Yetman, Jr. Editor At Large