Should Cruz pick his VP this week?

The idea was floated over the weekend by Jon Karl on ABC, as you’ll see below, and started some conservative tweeters chattering. I think there’s more upside to it than downside, but there are downsides.

Cruz is going to get blown out again tomorrow night, which raises the question of how he wants to spend the next week ahead of the big vote in Indiana. If he does nothing, he’ll spend most of his time fielding questions about collusion with John Kasich and whether his wipeout in the northeast proves that the party has come around to Trump. If he names a VP, he’ll spend most of his time talking about his veep pick and how it fits into his vision for America. That’s a move a would-be nominee makes, not an also-ran. Karl suggests, probably correctly, that Carly Fiorina is the frontrunner. Not only was Fiorina the first former candidate to endorse Cruz, she was the first big name to support him after various Washington Republicans had signed on with Rubio. If Cruz were to name her this week, he’d got a ton of buzz for putting a woman on the ticket and Fiorina would instantly be elevated to a super-surrogate who could barnstorm Indiana and other states as a draw in her own right to turn voters out for Cruz. Fiorina was also the most effective attack dog in the field against Trump during the debates. If you wanted someone on the trail on your behalf making the case for why a contested convention, with all the chaos it entails, is a better option than nominating Donald Trump, that’s who you’d pick. And don’t forget the regional play at stake: Fiorina graduated from Stanford and ran for Senate in 2010 in California, by far the most important state left on the board. If she can help Cruz hold Trump down there, that’s reason enough to pick her given its role in deciding the eventual nominee. And Fiorina helps in the general election too, of course, blunting Hillary’s pitch to women voters. There are lots of advantages in naming her.

So what not do it? The risk you run in naming a VP when you’re not the nominee yet is that voters will see it as a stunt, which is what it is, and stunts smell of desperation. That’s extra risky for Cruz given that he’s just pulled another stunt in colluding with Kasich in Indiana. Instead of seeing him as more presidential, some voters may view the veep pick as a gimmick by a fading candidate to try to revive his campaign. On top of that, it would limit Cruz’s strategic options later. Cruz’s chances at the convention may turn on his ability to horse-trade more effectively than Trump. If Trump offers Kasich the VP slot, what does Cruz counter with if that position’s already been filled by Fiorina? In fact, notes John McCormack, if you’re all about consolidating anti-Trumpers and winning California in June, wouldn’t it be smarter for Cruz to offer Kasich the VP slot now? No “alliance” will unite the two camps’ voters like that would. And if Kasich won’t accept the offer now, wouldn’t it be better to wait a few weeks and try again than to appoint someone now in case he becomes more amenable in mid-May? To paraphrase Rod Blagojevich, the vice presidency is a f***ing valuable thing.

I don’t think Cruz can wait for Kasich to figure out what he wants, though. Indiana is must-win. If picking someone this week would help win it, do it and worry about Cleveland the day after Indiana’s in the bag. Exit question: Is there any VP pick who might end up being blocked at the convention? Patrick Ruffini raised that possibility last night in contemplating the possibility of a Trump/Kasich ticket. What if, Ruffini wondered, Kasich made a deal with Trump to endorse him, all but handing him the nomination in exchange for the VP slot, and Cruz’s delegates responded by refusing to vote for Kasich for vice president? Remember, there’s no such thing as a bound delegate when it comes to the VP race; the delegates can vote for whoever they want. Ttypically the nominee’s choice is rubber-stamped, but since many (if not a majority) of delegates at the convention will be pro-Cruz, they’d be free to block Kasich even if Trump picked him. In reality, I doubt they’d have the nerve: Having been forced by the rules to nominate Trump on the first ballot, they’d support whoever Trump wanted for vice president before washing their hands of the general election. But they have the power to block if they choose to exercise it.

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