Running on empty

One of the strangest pieces of news–to me, at least–this week has been the announcement from Senator Ted Cruz’s campaign that he has selected Carly Fiorina as a running mate.

I see it as bizarre because I don’t see a benefit beyond news cycle control for a day or 2 as a result of it. Fiorina isn’t bringing some big benefit to Cruz, at least not as I can discern. She had a brief moment in September after delivering some good performances at the debate, but she never caught on in the polls (even something Ben Carson was able to do, at least for a while). She isn’t a politician with a particularly robust network of supporters and campaign operations in a state, nor has she long been a darling of a faction of the party. She’s a former business executive with a less-than-sterling record at HP, a failed candidate for Senate in California 6 years ago, and a presidential dropout. While this will focus media attention away from Donald Trump’s sweep of the five primaries on Tuesday, I doubt it will refocus the attention in a good way or for very long. It’s foolish to imagine a media-savvy guy like Trump not coming up with another attention-grabber before the weekend and the crucial Indiana primary next Tuesday.

There are two explanations for it that begin to make sense, though: Fiorina may (but who knows) boost Cruz’s popularity among women who dislike Trump in the upcoming states. This is one explanation beyond a grab for headlines. The other possibility is that Fiorina will help enough in California to at least block Trump from reaching the magic majority number of 1237 delegates to clinch the nomination outright. The Cruz camp has admitted by staying in the race now that it’s all about that now–it’s been mathematically improbable and now outright impossible for anyone but Trump to reach 1237. So it all hinges upon a contested convention and two or more ballots to elect the nominee.

Given Trump’s sweep this week, and the lack of any positive signs from either of his rivals’ campaigns, it’s beginning to look like California is going to be Cruz’s last stand. It seems likelier now than ever that the odds are stacking up against him.

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