The Cruz Veep Play for California

Cruz is on the ropes. So he picks a running mate: Carly Fiorina.

Should probably read more like, “Cruz has lost, so he picks a running mate.”

Could Fiorina make a difference in California? Maybe, but marginally at best. She lost the 2010 senate election by ten points. She did have primary support, though; if it translates into Cruz support, Cruz could do better in California than current polls dictate. A lot of California Republicans have voted for Fiorina before. Maybe they’ll find it easier to do so again, albeit by proxy. Even then, Cruz looks unlikely to hold Trump below the first-ballot threshold.

Could Governor Pence’s endorsement in Indiana give Cruz a big win? Maybe, but probably not a big enough win to make a difference. Trump needs to get some delegates in Indiana, but last Tuesday’s results mean he doesn’t necessarily need a huge slice of the pie.

At the start of the month I mentioned that Cruz needed to hold Trump back and close in (specifically, to make it more like 960/1060 than 800/1200). He’s done neither, and even if everything goes his way from here on out, ignoring Kasich and giving all delegates Trump doesn’t get to Cruz, the numbers will be something like:

  • Trump 1200 (+212)
  • Cruz 856 (+290)

More realistically, Trump will win on the first ballot. That 1200 number has him winning 1/3 of Indiana, a bare 90 in California, and only 2/3 of West Virginia. He will do better than that, Fiorina or not, Pence or not.

Indeed, if Cruz could pull off a Wisconsin-style finish in Indiana, holding Trump to a mere six or so delegates, Trump could fall below 1200. But Indiana does not look as fertile as Wisconsin did, and Trump is likely to perform better in other places, too.

Probably, Cruz is going with some magical thinking. Reagan did it in 1976, so if he does it now, comes in second, he’ll get the nod in 2020. He can be the next Ronald Reagan, and 2016 was just the practice year. Maybe he really is Lucifer in the flesh, like Boehner says, and this is all part of some blood ritual to win the White House. Buy garlic futures!

Or maybe he still sees some path to a contested convention. Maybe Fiorina can really turn California into a slaughter for Cruz. Maybe Indiana is the top-secret home of the #NeverTrump movement, sandbagging Cruz in the polls so that Trump won’t see it coming until it’s too late.

Or maybe we still will see a contested convention. This election has been so up and down that nobody should be too surprised if another reversal happens with Indiana and we’re back on track for a contested convention. Then Trump wins Nebraska, and Cruz takes West Virginia. Kasich wins Oregon. The ghost of Marco Rubio rolls doubles and gets out of campaign-suspension jail, buys Virginia Avenue for a monopoly, and puts up some houses.

Then Trump topples the board over, yells that Marco is a cheater, and then steals all the juice boxes.

Stranger things have happened.