Cruz rolls dice with Fiorina
© Getty Images

Facing a must-win situation in next week’s primary in Indiana, Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzHere's why Biden, Bernie and Beto are peaking O'Rourke taps former Obama aide as campaign manager Nunes on Mueller report: 'We can just burn it up' MORE sought to shake up the GOP presidential campaign by naming Carly Fiorina as his vice presidential candidate.

The dramatic move was teased as a big announcement Wednesday morning and dominated the news cycle a day after Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpPapadopoulos claims he was pressured to sign plea deal Tlaib asking colleagues to support impeachment investigation resolution Trump rips 'Mainstream Media': 'They truly are the Enemy of the People' MORE swept five Northeastern primaries and reasserted his dominance of the GOP race.

ADVERTISEMENT

Cruz desperately needed something to change the race’s momentum, and he turned to a failed Republican presidential candidate best known for her fiery attacks on Trump and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPapadopoulos claims he was pressured to sign plea deal Here's why Biden, Bernie and Beto are peaking The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Dems look for traction following Barr-Mueller findings MORE, the likely Democratic presidential nominee.

“Carly is brilliant and capable, and yet she experienced the hardscrabble world of being a female professional,” Cruz said in announcing his pick at a rally in Indianapolis, where his supporters held red, white and blue “Cruz/Fiorina ’16” signs that were handed out as Cruz spoke.

“Over and over again, Carly has shattered glass ceilings. But in addition to being a woman of extraordinary experience, she’s also a woman of deep principle,” Cruz said of the former Hewlett-Packard CEO.

Fiorina took the stage in a red dress that matched Cruz’s tie and immediately showed her potential to be a strong GOP vice presidential candidate against a ticket topped by Clinton, by laying into the former secretary of State.

“Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both would be disastrous for this nation,” Fiorina said. “They are not going to challenge the system that has sold us all down the river. They are the system.”

By the time of the event, Cruz’s campaign already had Cruz-Fiorina campaign paraphernalia for sale and a website, CruzCarly.com, to solicit donations.

Cruz’s decision to name Fiorina as his running mate won mixed reviews from political pundits and strategists. It’s the first time a candidate has named a running mate prior to receiving the nomination since Ronald Reagan in 1976, the last time the GOP had a contested convention.

Republicans credited the Texas senator for doing something to change the narrative of the race, but many questioned whether Fiorina — who does not seem to have any ties to Indiana — would make a difference in the Hoosier State.

“It’s tactically smart, but we run the risk now of making tactically smart decisions that are like the tactically smart fouls in a basketball game when you are down,” said former Republican National Committee aide Doug Heye. “The question is, can Trump hit his free throws?”

Cruz trails Trump in polls in Indiana and would have no realistic hope of preventing Trump from getting to 1,237 delegates and clinching the GOP nomination without a win in the state.

The Texan has dodged bullets before by earning must-wins in the Iowa caucuses and Wisconsin primary earlier in the cycle, but he will need to do so again by winning Indiana’s primary on Tuesday.

“Ted Cruz is going to be rubbing a rabbit’s foot until Tuesday hoping for another Wisconsin,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “Not winning Indiana could be a psychological dagger for Cruz’s hopes.”

Cruz has been beating Trump at the insider’s game of winning loyal delegates to the convention who could back him on a second ballot if Trump fails to get to the necessary 1,237 delegates to secure the nomination on the first go-round.

And he believes that as the GOP race moves from hostile territory on the East Coast to the Midwest and West Coast, he could do better.

Cruz reached a deal with John Kasich, the only other Republican still in the race, to divide up some of the remaining states to improve their attacks on Trump. Kasich is effectively pulling out of Indiana, giving Cruz the one-on-one match with Trump that he has craved.

Fiorina tangled with Trump memorably at the second GOP debate.

The GOP front-runner had told Rolling Stone that he couldn’t imagine a woman with Fiorina’s face being the president, comments widely seen in both parties as sexist.

“Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?” Trump told the magazine.

At the September debate, Fiorina said, “I think the women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.” Instead of firing back, Trump said that she had a “beautiful face, and I think she’s a beautiful woman.”

 O’Connell noted that while the move is geared at expanding Cruz’s base and reaching out more directly to women, it’s a major Hail Mary. 

“The most coverage you ever get is the day you announce, the day you clinch the nomination and the day you make the VP pick,” he said. 

“He’s now giving up just one of his ‘whammies’ just to stay alive. That tells you what desperate straits he’s in.”

Cruz could be helped in Indiana by anti-Trump groups ready to make the state their final stand.

One of the best-funded anti-Trump super-PACs, Club for Growth Action, has already spent $1.7 million attacking Trump in Indiana on both statewide television buys and digital buys through primary day, says the conservative group’s spokesman, Doug Sachtleben.

The other big-money anti-Trump super-PAC, Our Principles PAC, is spending seven figures in Indiana attacking Trump, Katie Packer, the group’s chairwoman, said. She declined to disclose the exact amount of spending but noted that it’s a “full-court press” akin to its efforts ahead of Cruz’s Wisconsin win.

 “We certainly see Indiana as crucial for Trump. If he doesn’t win Indiana he can’t get to 1,237,” Packer said. “If he does win Indiana, then it all comes down to California. No question about it, it makes our job a lot harder if he wins Indiana.”