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Ted Cruz was smart to name Carly Fiorina as his running mate

Not since 1976 has a candidate for the Republican nomination announced a running mate before locking up the top spot on the ticket. In that year, Ronald Reagan was the insurgent conservative candidate trying to topple President Gerald Ford. Reagan announced before the convention that he'd name Pennsylvania Senator Richard Schweiker as his vice presidential running mate, should he receive the party's nomination for president. At the time, it was widely reported that Schweiker was a moderate, chosen to balance the conservative Reagan. That was true. But, the fact that he was from the delegate-rich keystone state was another big factor in Schweiker's selection.

Sen. Ted Cruz greets supporters with former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina at a campaign rally in the Pavilion at the Pan Am Plaza on April 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana
Ty Wright | Getty Images
Sen. Ted Cruz greets supporters with former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina at a campaign rally in the Pavilion at the Pan Am Plaza on April 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana

When Ted Cruz prematurely announced his intention to nominate Carly Fiorina as his vice presidential running mate, I suspect, like Reagan, delegates were on Cruz's mind. Just a few years ago, in 2010, Fiorina carried the Republican banner for U.S. Senate. She didn't win, but every California Republican worker bee is more familiar with her than any of the three men still seeking the nomination and over 4 million people have voted for her in the past. Voters always make their determination based on the top of the ticket but Fiorina's California connections will be worth something if the race comes down to California's 172 delegates.

Of course, the Cruz-Fiorina ticket has to get past Indiana first. Cruz desperately needed to change the narrative. Trump has gained steam, is now consolidating the Republican base, and, if he handily defeats Cruz in Indiana, will likely get to the required 1,237 delegates before arriving in Cleveland. The Fiorina pick alone is unlikely to change that trajectory. But, the Fiorina selection definitely took up some of Trump's oxygen. That was a rare event for Cruz — even if it's just temporary.

Perhaps the best thing about the Fiorina selection is she is just as valuable a primary-nomination asset as she is in the general election. In the primary, Donald Trump's vulnerability is likability and electability. Most voters don't like him and many Republicans worry he can't get elected in November. This is because his numbers with women are terrible. Trump has a 70-percent disapproval rating among women, according to the latest Gallup poll. That's all women but, with a number that high, he's not winning over Republican women. Carly Fiorina is the living embodiment of why Donald Trump is the wrong guy to carry the GOP banner in November.


Cruz's numbers aren't great with women either. Fiorina helps increase his chances to get to the general election. And, if he does, she will not only help balance Cruz's image but be a great contrast to Hillary Clinton.

Commentary by Sara Taylor Fagen, a partner at DDC Advocacy and a former political director for President George W. Bush. Follow her on Twitter @sarafagen2.

Disclosure: Fagen supports/advises Our Principles PAC, a group aimed at stopping Trump from winning the nomination.

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