Senator Ted Cruz announced Carly Fiorina as his running mate on Wednesday, in a speech in Indianapolis, just hours after he was routed by Donald Trump in five contests in the Northeast on Tuesday night.
"If nominated, I will run on a ticket with my vice presidential nominee, Carly Fiorina," Cruz told a crowd in Indiana, a must-win state for his campaign, on Wednesday.
Cruz used the opportunity to take a few shots at Trump, who is soundly beating him in the Republican presidential race so far. The Texas senator said that the choice of a vice presidential candidate was an important one, signaling that he had found a running mate he trusts, who both understands the economy and has the judgement to serve in the White House — and who won't "pop off the handle at whatever strikes them at any given moment."
In Fiorina, Cruz is clearly seeking an attack dog. He highlighted her takedown of Trump in an early Republican debate, after the GOP frontrunner told Rolling Stone that he didn't think anyone would vote for a woman with "that face". Fiorina earned a standing ovation for her response, telling the CNN moderators: "I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said."
"Carly isn't intimidated by bullies," Cruz said Wednesday.
Cruz said he was making the unusual move to name a vice presidential candidate this early in the race in order to unite the party and "give the American people a clear choice," knocking Trump — though not by name — for his frequent policy flips. "Elections are about choices," Cruz said.
Cruz and Fiorina and their families have grown close in recent weeks. The senator said that Fiorina makes up songs to sing to his young daughters and that the two girls frequently text her, noting her "Impressive fluency with heart and smiley face emoticons." Fiorina actually started singing one of the songs to Cruz's daughters during her own speech on Wednesday.
Fiorina highlighted her own career as a CEO, saying that she doesn't shy away from a fight. "This is a fight worth having. This is a fight worth winning, and with your help, we will win this fight," she said.
Cruz's announcement of a vice presidential pick before clinching the nomination is highly unusual, but not unheard of. Ronald Reagan, who was similarly trailing in the delegate race in 1976, selected Senator Richard Schweiker as his running mate before the convention. He ultimately lost the raqce for the Republican nomination to Gerald Ford.
Although he remains the strongest challenger to Trump, as of last week Cruz has been mathematically eliminated from the race to get the requisite 1,237 delegates before the party's July convention. He will now rely on convincing delegates to switch over to his campaign on a second ballot at a contested convention.
Cruz has been forecasting all day Wednesday that he would make a "major announcement" at 4pm in Indianapolis. Later Wednesday, MSNBC cameras on the ground caught Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO and presidential candidate, in the city Wednesday, raising speculation that he would name her as his vice presidential candidate.
The Cruz campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a campaign stop in the city earlier Wednesday, Cruz was coy about what his announcement would be. But the Texas senator indicated that he has no interest in dropping out of the race, despite his losses on Tuesday. Cruz finished third in four of the five states that voted Tuesday night, falling behind Ohio Governor John Kasich, who has won just won one state.
Cruz said (once again) that the electoral map is about to shift to territory that is much more favorable to him. Cruz is putting his campaign on the line in Indiana, where Trump currently leads.
Fiorina ended her own presidential bid after a disappointing finish in the New Hampshire primary in February and endorsed Cruz a month later. Since then, she has sent out numerous fundraising emails for the campaign and has appeared with him on the trail as well.
Fiorina, like Cruz, has strong bona fides in the evangelical community, but she also brings a business background to the campaign that's trying to take down a real estate tycoon. During her presidential campaign, Fiorina sold herself as the obvious answer to Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, a female candidate who could hurt the Democrats' "war on women" narrative.
Fiorina briefly led the 2016 pack early in the race, but caught flak in the media after she described in a debate seeing graphic footage of a fetus dissected in leaked videos from Planned Parenthood — images that didn't actually exist. (The activists who created those videos were later indicted for tampering with a government record and attempting to purchase human organs.)
Fiorina ran for Senate in 2010 in deep-blue California, which will hold a major presidential primary on June 7, and lost to Sen. Barbara Boxer by 10 points. Trump currently holds a double-digit lead in the state, which carries 172 delegates.
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