As we anticipated, discussion of the pact between Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich has opened up fresh discussion about Cruz's vice presidential pick. If you are going to start throwing Hail Marys, you might as well try one that could generate the most coverage and excitement, right? An early VP pick would qualify.
Jeff Roe, Cruz's campaign manager, got the ball rolling with a tweet: "We have narrowed our VP candidates to a short list and are going thru the normal processes associated with picking a running mate."
You don't do that unless you want to start some buzz. Cruz told reporters later that "any responsible candidate, just a couple of months out from the convention, would begin that process," but hastened to add, "At this point no decisions have been made in terms of who a nominee would be, or what the timing would be of the announcement." Still, the highly disciplined Cruz camp does not put out a tweet like Roe's without a purpose.
One motive behind Roe's tweet may be the effort to send up a trial balloon for Carly Fiorina, whose team reportedly said she was on the list. Again, one does not say you are on the list with the hope of getting picked unless the candidate wants it to be known you are on the list.
If Cruz is floating the VP news in hopes of announcing a pick to nail down Indiana, he would be looking at someone like the state's current governor, Mike Pence. However, Cruz, so far as we know, has not spent considerable time with him. Pence has yet to even endorse Cruz. Moreover, with the exception of Indiana, it is not clear Pence would move either voters or delegates elsewhere by expanding Cruz's appeal. He, like Cruz, is a strong conservative, although he would bring with him considerable experience in the House and governor's office. Besides, Cruz probably is not going to pull a second surprise (after the pact) just to secure Indiana. (If he does not win there, his problems are bigger than we imagine.)
For those reasons, I would rate Pence's chances as unlikely at this point.
If he is not going to choose someone just to secure Indiana, one can surmise Cruz would make an announcement perhaps close to a big primary. California, which may decide the nomination on June 7 when 172 delegates are up for grabs, looms large in this regard.
In that case, Fiorina would check a number of boxes. She ran for Senate from California and worked as a chief executive in the state. She is ferocious in attacking both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Moreover, as a former chair for the American Conservative Union and a former fundraising chair for the RNC's "Victory Initiative" in 2008, she would be a capable hand in corralling delegates -- without carrying the baggage of a lifetime political insider. She and Cruz seemed to get along well on the trail, appearing together at numerous events and making the case against "business as usual."
(Tip: Candidates usually try campaigning with the eventual nominee or otherwise try spending quality time with them to get a feel for the personal chemistry.)
And finally, Fiorina is nothing if not disciplined; she is unlikely to get off message or contradict the top of the ticket. In short, if he was leaning her way before the most recent events, Cruz might consider announcing her as the pick in the week leading up to California. I'd rate her as a likely pick.
Then there is Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida. His office did not respond to my inquiry as to whether he was participating in a vetting process. As a charismatic Hispanic with a national reputation, Rubio might help in California as well, although his main assets are an in-depth command of foreign policy and those 173 delegates he still has. This would be doubling down on Cruz's image as something different, not a lifelong, old, white male politician.
The obvious drawback is collectively they would have next to no executive experience. Moreover, few presidents want someone on the ticket with his own future presidential ambitions. The there is the immigration issue. They battled for months over their differences, sometimes launching in bitter attacks. Sometimes clashes can be smoothed over for a general election. In this case, it would not be easy given the importance Cruz put on the issue and the likelihood Trump would make hay over the perception Cruz was softening on the issue by bringing on a co-author of the Gang of Eight bill. For that reason, I'd rate him as an unlikely pick.
And finally there is Kasich. He never tires of reminding us that he is from a key swing state with a solid conservative record. He plainly has appeal to more moderate members of the GOP. Nevertheless, the negatives outweigh the positives. He and Cruz do not see eye to eye on a raft of issues and have different approaches to governance. Kasich is what Cruz supporters call a "squishy" member of the political establishment and Cruz is an irresponsible nut to many Kasich fans. Moreover, Kasich is thoroughly undisciplined and prickly, a poor combination of traits for a VP. And finally, he has not shown he can attract voters outside his home state. It remains far from clear that his supporters would migrate over to a Cruz-Kasich ticket.
If Cruz wanted to recapture the media's attention after a day of Trump ranting over the Cruz-Kasich pact, he succeeded. From our vantage point, it makes sense to pick someone well in advance of the convention, and if possible to assist in stopping Trump before he hits 1,237 delegates. There are many talented choices if this were a regular election year (e.g., South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley) but this is no ordinary year. For one thing, many top candidates are likely to be uninterested in the second spot on a ticket that could well lose the nomination, and if not, get trounced by Hillary Clinton.
It's not a great career move, some Republicans will conclude, especially if they harbor their own doubts about Cruz's political style and penchant for divisiveness. To be blunt, the short list may be very short.
Given all that we know, Fiorina is perhaps the favorite. But then again, few things work out as predicted in this race.