Would Republican Presidential Candidate Senator Ted Cruz Select Carly Fiorina as his Running Mate?

As Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz works to win enough delegates to prevent fellow candidate Donald Trump from amassing the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the 2016 Republican nomination, some are looking ahead to the question of who Cruz might select as his running mate and naming Carly Fiorina as their preferred choice for VP. The former presidential candidate and Hewlett Packard CEO, who dropped out of the presidential race following the New Hampshire primary, endorsed Cruz in March ahead of the Florida primary. Since then, she has campaigned with Senator Cruz’s wife, Heidi, in Wisconsin, where Cruz won the primary over Trump with 48 percent of the vote and received 36 of the 42 Republican delegates up for grabs. Fiorina has not ruled out being named as Cruz’s pick for vice president and has embraced her role as a surrogate for Cruz, attacking fellow Republican candidate Donald Trump as well as presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Given that the 2016 Republican nomination looks increasingly likely to be resolved in a contested convention, what benefit might Ted Cruz gain from naming Fiorina as his running mate, were he to become the nominee?

cruzfiorinaFirst, Fiorina is a popular choice with social conservatives, an important part of Senator Cruz’s primary voting base. Earlier this month Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a PAC that recruits and funds pro-life candidates, touted Fiorina as the “only choice” for Cruz’s pick for vice president. In an op-ed, Dannenfelser praised Fiorina’s knowledge on domestic and foreign affairs, as well as her “passionate defense of the unborn.” She emphasized her opposition to abortion and Planned Parenthood as key to her campaign. In the early Republican presidential debates last fall, Fiorina repeatedly called for the defunding of Planned Parenthood in response to undercover videos, now widely discredited, that allege the organization sold for profit fetal tissue obtained from abortions. While the Susan B. Anthony List has neither endorsed a presidential nominee nor contributed to any presidential campaigns, the group did sign on to letters distributed by pro-life groups urging Iowa and South Carolina voters to “vote for anyone for Trump.”   For Dannenfelser and many pro-life advocates, Cruz’s selection of Carly Fiorina as his running mate would be a positive choice because her conservative credentials are not in question.

Second, the Cruz campaign may believe that a Cruz-Fiorina ticket could make inroads with voters, particularly women, who do not like Trump. Indeed, a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll indicates that Donald Trump has an unfavorable rating of 51 and 71 percent with Republican and independent women voters, respectively. By contrast, the same poll found that Ted Cruz had a significantly lower unfavorable rating with these two groups of women voters. Fiorina is not fond of Trump. Her PAC even ran a campaign ad in response to Trump’s criticism of her face and appearance. Fiorina believes she can help Cruz with voters, both in the primary and in the general election. In addition to criticizing Trump as a conservative of convenience and reminding voters of the outsider status she shares with Senator Cruz, Fiorina has long maintained that she is particularly well suited to blunt Hillary Clinton’s advantage with women voters in the general election.

What is less clear is whether naming Fiorina as his running mate would be electorally advantageous for Senator Cruz in the general election, should he win the Republican nomination. To date, only two women have received the major party nominations for vice president. Representative Geraldine Ferraro was Senator Walter Mondale’s running mate on the Democratic Party ticket in 1984. And, in 2008, Governor Sarah Palin was Senator John McCain’s running mate on the Republican Party ticket.    Mondale lost handily to Reagan in 1984; McCain lost to Obama by a smaller margin in 2008. Neither woman vice-presidential candidate lost the election for her respective party, although Governor Palin may have cost Senator McCain votes in the general election. Additionally, despite the conventional wisdom that presidential candidates select a vice presidential nominee with an expectation that their running mate will help deliver the electoral college votes of his/her home state in the general election, recently published research suggests that is not the case. Political scientists Kyle Kopko and Christopher Devine examined over 100 years of state-level election returns and found that vice presidential nominees generally provide no home-state advantage to the party’s ticket. Based on these findings, adding Fiorina to the ticket would not give Senator Cruz a built-in advantage for winning Virginia, Fiorina’s current home state, though Virginia is likely to be competitive in the general election. In fact, Fiorina may be more closely identified with California, where she ran a losing race for U.S. Senate in 2010.

The 2016 presidential primary season ends on June 7th, though it’s looking increasingly unlikely that the Republican nomination will be decided by then. While Donald Trump may fail to secure a majority of delegates, Cruz still faces significant hurdles to defeating him. Fewer than 20 states and the District of Columbia have yet to hold primaries, including delegate-rich states like New York and California that may prove difficult for Cruz to win. Thus, the question of Cruz’s running mate selection is far less urgent than the question of his chances of winning his party’s nomination. Still, in an electoral climate where every vote will count, it is worth considering the potential benefits of selecting a woman running mate. At this point in the campaign, on the Republican side Fiorina is the woman most overtly positioning herself for the job.


cooperman_WEBRosalyn Cooperman is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA.  Cooperman’s research focuses on the relationship between political parties, PACs, and women candidates, as well as elite attitudes regarding women’s political participation.  Since 2004, Cooperman has served as a principal investigator for the Convention Delegate Study, a survey of Democratic and Republican party delegates.  She is also co-principal investigator for the 2014 National Supporter Survey, a survey of campaign donors to political parties and women’s PACs.  In addition to the publication of book chapters on women candidates, Cooperman’s research on political parties has been published in such journals as American Political Science Review and Political Science Quarterly.  Cooperman serves as a commentator for U.S. News & World Report’s Debate Club.  She received her B.A. from Indiana University and her Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University.