March 9, 2016
Carly Fiorina has endorsed Ted Cruz. Candidates are frequently getting endorsements. Most don’t matter. A few do. This is one of those. She joins Rick Perry as ex-contestants who have signed up with Cruz.
As an ex-governor of Texas, Perry’s failure to pick Ted would have mattered more than his endorsement. If Marco Rubio had Jeb’s endorsement, it might not help a ton. Lacking it looks bad.
Of the many endorsements Rubio received, the only one to truly move the needle was Nikki Haley. She’s popular, and giving him a vote of confidence after his New Hampshire nightmare helped him past Cruz.
Having Bob Dole move over to Marco after Jeb exited is the definition of a counter-productive endorsement. Cruz has resolutely avoided the type of endorsements that would hurt his brand, but none have really moved the needle.
Glenn Beck is probably the most useful one he’s received and again, his failure to throw in with Cruz, especially given how anathema Trump is to him, would have said more than choosing in did.
Fiorina makes a difference. She was/is very popular with Cruz and Rubio voters. Before each of them stepped forward in late October/early November, Carly had some of those supporters in her column.
On policy, she’s a bit more with Cruz on domestic stuff, more with Rubio on foreign policy/national security. Fiorina also has establishment and insurgent credibility. The time as a Fortune 50 CEO and seriousness on defense issues makes her credible to those wanting gravitas.
Not having held elective office, running an outsider campaign and talking frequently about a rigged system helps with voters who are leaning towards Trump.
Cruz has two important tasks. There are voters still trying to decide between him and Trump. Nobody is pulling away a dedicated Trumpist, but The Donald and Cruz are still sometimes the second choice of the other’s less committed supporters.
Carly can help at the margins here. Unlike Sarah Palin, she stays on message. Cruz can have her open for him at an event without fear she’s going to overshadow him with a wild-ass sound bite.
It’s also more than safe to have her do a Sunday show, get interviewed on one of the cable networks, whatever. As a candidate, she was arguably on message too much for an underdog. As a surrogate it’s a wonderful trait.
Cruz is currently outnumbered. Turn on CNN or Fox News at any time and you’ll see a Trump supporter, official surrogate, strong sympathizer, or something of that nature being interviewed or on a panel.
Ted has an ex-communications director on CNN pretty regularly, matched to a Trump supporter, but otherwise he’s outgunned. Carly isn’t going to take up residence on a panel, but at least she’s qualified help.
If he wants to enter the convention with more delegates than The Donald, even if still short of 1237, consolidating the #NeverTrump vote isn’t enough. He actually needs to pull a few leaners his way.
The remaining states aren’t as tough for Cruz as some think, but he is done with many of those that were originally going to favor him. That’s half the mission. The other is to grab the majority of Rubio’s remaining support.
We know Marco is losing voters left and right, but that happens closer to voting day in most places. He’s still at or near 20% in most national polls. In many of the remaining states Cruz + Rubio > Trump.
But in a world where John Kasich still exists after winning March 15, Cruz can’t automatically assume the majority of Rubio voters will go to him. When Illinois, Missouri, and North Carolina vote on March 15, he will definitely still exist.
How to make sure those voters go towards Ted? Carly. It’s a solid tiebreaker for someone who chose Rubio because he was more inclusive sounding than Cruz and more conservative than Kasich.
As we know, Fiorina loves going after Hillary. That helps move Cruz on to general election footing. While it’s premature to have him worry about this while he’s still trailing Trump in delegates and almost 900 short of the required amount, electability is an issue.
Rubio voters may consider Kasich better in November. Some people think Trump is suicide. Those voters aren’t deciding between Cruz and Trump. Those who are often think The Donald is the better bet because of his appeal to Democrats and Independents.
We’ll see how much use Cruz makes of Carly. Palin endorsed Trump, made a fuss, and was back in hiding within a few days. Chris Christie formed a pseudo-ticket with Trump, gave him a quick boost, then became a meme after standing forlornly behind The Donald on Super Tuesday.
He was at the Trump event yesterday, but safely away from the camera, reduced to receiving a shout-out from his endorsee. It’s possible Carly would make a good actual running mate for Cruz, but he may not have full range of choice on this.
If Rubio drops out after Florida or is persuadable to abandon ship ahead, Ted would happily grab him as a unity ticket running mate, especially when their combined delegates total more than Trump has.
Kasich is currently disavowing a VP run, but may feel differently in July, and could hold enough delegates to get Cruz over the top then. There are all sorts of other options, should Ted get to that point. You can argue Nikki Haley should be anyone’s first choice.
Either way, depending on how Cruz wants to play things, Fiorina is available to serve as a competent, qualified pseudo-running mate for the foreseeable future. If Rubio should wind up joining the team soon, it’s a strong three-pack.
I’m not saying this is going to change the entire equilibrium of the contest, but this is an important boost. Let’s see what Cruz can do to leverage it.