She may have a checkered past as a tech executive and a political record comprising two failed bids for office, but the Republican Party apparently is not yet done with Carly Fiorina.
As had been rumored for much of the week and a possibility for more than a month, GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz on April 27 named the former Hewlett-Packard CEO and one-time campaign rival as his vice presidential running mate in an unusual move given the conditions within the Republican nominating process.
Most often the announcement of a vice presidential candidate is made close to the party’s nominating convention by the candidate who at least is in the lead, if not already holding the necessary number of delegates in his back pocket. This time, the announcement came the day after GOP frontrunner Donald Trump won all five primaries in Northeast states and Cruz—sitting almost 400 delegates behind Trump—was mathematically eliminated from winning the nomination without a contested convention.
Political pundits have called the decision to name Fiorina a desperate move and a Hail Mary. From here on out, Cruz’s only shot is to find a way for him and Ohio Gov. John Kasich to deny Trump the 1,237 delegates the businessman needs to get the nomination on the first ballot, and that first step is the May 3 primary in Indiana, where 57 delegates are up for grabs and where Cruz announced Fiorina as his running mate.
During his lengthy speech introducing Fiorina, the Texas senator addressed the question of why he was announcing a vice presidential nominee now, saying that “we all would acknowledge that this race, if anything, is unusual.”
In talking about the former business executive, Cruz praised her knowledge of the issues ranging from the economy to international affairs, her judgment, her character and her life story, noting her rise from secretary to HP CEO, saying that “over and over again, Carly has shattered the glass ceilings.” He also noted Fiorina’s strong push back against Trump during a debate, a move that earned her praise and a momentary bump in the polls.
“Carly isn’t intimidated by bullies because she’s faced challenges much worse than someone bellowing … and insulting her face,” the senator said.
In her remarks, Fiorina went right at Trump, looking to tie him to Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton by calling them both “big city liberals,” Washington insiders and “two sides of the same coin.” She also made a strong plea to religious conservatives and evangelicals, talking about the rights given to U.S. citizens by God.
“There is a lot at stake and, in fact, this is a fight for the soul of our party and the future of our nation,” Fiorina said. “I’ve had tough fights all my life. Tough fights don’t worry me.”
The announcement drew the expected scorn from Trump, who said in a statement that Cruz “has no path to victory. He is only trying to stay relevant.” He called the move “cute.” Kasich said in a statement that Fiorina ran an “honorable campaign,” but that he expected her joining Cruz’s campaign would be greeted by GOP votes “with a shrug.”
It’s unclear exactly how much of an impact Fiorina will have on the campaign. Even during the best times of her own run for the nomination, she barely edged above double digits in a crowded field. She dropped out in February and a month later endorsed Cruz, quickly becoming a key surrogate for the senator on the campaign trail.
In the short term, Cruz was able to steal some of the thunder from Trump’s victories the night before, and Fiorina may help draw some women voters away from Trump. She also could possibly help gather some delegates in the upcoming California primary, and she won’t shy away from attacking Trump over the next few weeks.
However, it’s questionable how many votes she could bring to the campaign—it’s not as though she garnered many during her own effort. And she still carries the same baggage that hurt her during her own campaigns for both the presidential nomination and in 2010, when she ran for the Senate against incumbent Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. During her tenure as HP CEO, the company laid off 30,000 employees and shipped jobs offshore. In addition, when the board of directors forced her out in 2005, she received a $21 million buyout.
After that, her political resume consists of the loss to Boxer during a season when the GOP gained a lot of seats in Congress and her presidential run, which drew tepid response.