Ted Cruz’s announcement of Carly Fiorina as his running mate came Wednesday in Indiana, where Cruz is laboring to keep his candidacy afloat, but with a careful eye on California, where the campaign could be decided.
Just more than a month before California’s critical June 7 primary, the Texas senator now holds in Fiorina a high-profile surrogate who has run for statewide office here before.
Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard Co. chief executive, was pummeled by Democrat Barbara Boxer in the U.S. Senate race in 2010. But California Republicans selected Fiorina in a competitive primary, and it is those same voters to whom Cruz is shaping his appeal.
“She’s a known commodity in California,” Mark Meckler, a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, told the McClatchy Washington Bureau on Wednesday. “Her name is well known in California. The question is – too little, too late?”
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Her name is well known in California. The question is – too little, too late?
Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots
Cruz’s announcement followed victories by the Republican front-runner, Donald Trump, in five states on Tuesday. It came two days ahead of the California Republican Party’s convention in Burlingame, where Cruz, Fiorina, Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are all scheduled to speak.
Fiorina, who abandoned her own presidential campaign in February, was outmatched in California by Boxer’s experience, and she came under heavy criticism from Democrats for laying off 30,000 employees and outsourcing thousands of jobs at HP.
But Fiorina was widely praised in both her Senate campaign and long-shot presidential bid for her performance in debates, for which she enjoyed a brief surge in polls nationally and among California Republicans last year.
“It’s an interesting pick, obviously one in which (Cruz) hopes to get some momentum going into Indiana and California,” said Beth Miller, a Republican strategist who served as an adviser to Fiorina in 2010.
Miller said Fiorina “connects very well with people” while campaigning.
But Fiorina has not lived in California for several years, having moved to Mason Neck, Va., outside Washington, D.C., after losing to Boxer in 2010. Nor does Fiorina come to the campaign with political infrastructure in the state.
“It’s not like he’s tapped into an established Republican elected official in California who brings … that kind of political infrastructure or grass-roots organization,” Miller said. “I would consider her selection more of a provocative choice to generate media rather than an ace in the sleeve for California.”
Former Republican Rep. Doug Ose, a Trump supporter, said he suspects the selection of Fiorina is a way for Cruz to distract from the “Texas-style whoopin’ ” applied by voters Tuesday.
If you are not the nominee, what difference does it make? However much you respect Ms. Fiorina, this is a sideshow. This is a total distraction.
Former Rep. Doug Ose, R-Sacramento
“If you are not the nominee, what difference does it make?” Ose asked of the Fiorina pick. “However much you respect Ms. Fiorina, this is a sideshow. This is a total distraction.”
In her campaign to unseat Boxer, Fiorina lost by more than 10 percentage points. But the state is so overwhelmingly Democratic that no Republican was likely to win. In the primary election, Fiorina bested former Rep. Tom Campbell and then-Assemblyman Chuck DeVore. She crushed the more moderate candidate, Campbell, defeating him in 48 of California’s current 53 congressional districts, with an average margin of victory of more than 40 percentage points.
“Remember that in the primary she had to beat two opponents, both of whom were very experienced elected officials, or in the case of Campbell, a former elected official,” said Marty Wilson, who managed Fiorina’s Senate campaign.
Fiorina already had endorsed Cruz. But Wilson said her status as a vice presidential prospect will boost his candidacy’s visibility in the state.
“From a tactical point of view, it expands Cruz’s bandwidth,” Wilson said. “So while Cruz competes in Indiana, Carly can spend time campaigning in California, where she really did very well.”
From a tactical point of view, it expands Cruz’s bandwidth. So while Cruz competes in Indiana, Carly can spend time campaigning in California, where she really did very well.
Marty Wilson, who managed Fiorina’s campaign in the 2010 Senate race in California
Cruz is running behind Trump in statewide public opinion polls in California. But because California Republicans award nearly all of their 172 delegates by congressional district – three delegates each to the winner of each of 53 districts – beating the New York businessman in even a handful of districts could prevent him from obtaining the delegates necessary to secure the nomination.
“She might have certain advantages in some regions of the state,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll. “She did do fairly well against Boxer, for example, in the Central Valley and the inland areas when she ran for Senate. ... Those are the areas that she probably might bring some benefit to Cruz.”
DiCamillo said voters in a presidential election are rarely influenced significantly by a candidates’ choice for vice president.
“But with Cruz,” DiCamillo said, “he’s trying to pull out all the stops. And this is kind of the last-ditch effort to stop Trump in California, and you know, I think he’s trying to do everything he can to do that. So I think that’s his calculation.”
Meckler acknowledged shortcomings in Fiorina’s Senate and presidential campaigns but said Fiorina could improve Cruz’s image ratings in the state.
“To be fair, they’re not bringing her in because they’re counting on her to run the campaign,” he said. “They’re bringing her in to run as a surrogate, to hopefully attract women or soften Cruz with women.”
Boxer, in a telephone call with reporters, dismissed the Cruz-Fiorina ticket as “mean and meaner.” Boxer sought to tie Cruz’s tough stance on illegal immigration to Fiorina’s stormy record as the head of Hewlett-Packard.
“He wants to ship immigrants out of America and she’s already shipped jobs out of America,” Boxer said. “They are the perfect duo. Seriously.”
Recalling their bitter 2010 campaign, Boxer savaged Fiorina’s business record, predicting “this Fiorina merger will be just as successful as her last one at HP.”
“All I can say is she was rejected. She’s run away from California,” Boxer said. “So anyone who says she is going to get him votes – she left. She doesn’t even live there anymore. It’s not even her residence.”
Jim Miller of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.