By MARSHA MERCER
Carly Fiorina may be the best thing to happen to Ted Cruz since Dr. Seuss.
In 2013, Cruz, an obscure senator with dreams of the White House, staged a talkathon on the Senate floor against funding the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. During the 21-hour theatrical performance, he read the good doctor’s “Green Eggs and Ham” to his little girls as a bedtime story.
The stunt gained Cruz the national attention he craved among conservatives – and the enmity of fellow senators.
Now, hoping to revive his flagging campaign, Cruz has named Fiorina – his former rival for the Republican presidential nomination and former CEO of Hewlett-Packard -- as his running mate. After losing a string of contests to Donald J. Trump, Cruz hopes this unorthodox move will help him win Tuesday’s primary in Indiana.
Cruz in essence is asking voters to give him a second look in this Year of the Woman’s Card. Even if you don’t like me, he seemed to say Wednesday in Indianapolis, you’ll like her and then maybe you’ll like us enough.
Fiorina, an adept public speaker, previewed her role in the campaign. She blasted Trump and Hillary Clinton as “two sides of the same coin” and “part of the system,” and she shared a snippet of a made-up song she sings with Cruz’s daughters, ages 8 and 5, on the campaign bus.
“I know two girls that I just adore. I’m so happy I can see them more,” Fiorina sang.
In the past, humanizing a candidate was a job for a candidate’s wife. Attacking the opposition was the VP’s role. Fiorina showed she can punch – and cuddle. That’s a first.
She also could be helpful in California, where she has ties and ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2010. But her home is in Virginia. In 2011, she and her husband Frank bought a $6.1 million mansion on five acres with sweeping views of the Potomac in a gated community in Lorton.
Choosing a running mate used to be almost an after-thought, but that’s changed in recent years. Cruz’s early pick suggests the choice may be especially important this year.
The election is shaping up as a contest between two of the most unloved and distrusted people in America, Trump and Clinton. An appealing running mate could conceivably sway some none-of-the-above people to go to the polls.
So, besides geography, gender, age, ethnicity, ferocity, the wow factor and, yes, even qualifications to step in as president, a running mate’s favorability or comfort level with voters is a factor.
For example, if Trump were to pick John Kasich, someone who actually has experience in Washington, the choice might make Trump less scary to moderate Republicans and dubious independents who lean toward the GOP. Might.
Kasich has said, as he must at this point, that he’s not interested in being anyone’s VP and is developing his own list of running mates.
Trump has said he won’t announce his choice until he actually wraps up the nomination. But he is dropping tantalizing hints. When a supporter, South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, mentioned on CNN Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin as a possibility, Trump tweeted: “Great job and advice.”
If the election came down to Trump and Clinton in Virginia, some Bernie Sanders supporters and independents leaning Democratic might hold their noses and vote for Clinton if one of their senators, Tim Kaine or Mark Warner, was at her side.
“Kaine is Able, and Warner is Too,” read a headline in National Review a year ago.
Another hot Democratic prospect, with an eye to the Hispanic vote, is Julian Castro, secretary of Housing and Urban Development and a former mayor of San Antonio, Texas. But a Clinton ally once told Politico that Tim Kaine speaks better Spanish than Castro.
While Sanders is laying off staff, Clinton has set her campaign on vetting VP candidates.
“She has told her team she cares less about ideology and personal compatibility than about picking a winner, someone who can dominate the vice-presidential debate and convince Americans that Mrs. Clinton is their best choice,” Patrick Healy of The New York Times reports.
That’s the bottom line: It’s all about winning, and who can help the most.
© 2016 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.