Cruz, Kasich weigh veep gamble

To pick or not to pick a VP before Cleveland?

For Ted Cruz and John Kasich, that’s suddenly the question.

{mosads}Kasich over the weekend said his team had begun putting together a shortlist of vice presidential picks and suggested that he could name his running mate ahead of July’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Picking a vice president early could yield dividends for Kasich, but it could also backfire if seen as desperate. Given that the Ohio governor is a distant third in the GOP presidential race, having only won his home state, it might be a chance worth taking.

“It could show inevitability and momentum if either camp were to announce, so I don’t think it’s a bad idea,” said Ohio GOP Chairman Matt Borges, a Kasich supporter and friend who is helping to organize the convention.

The calculations for Cruz are roughly the same.

Reports emerged Monday afternoon that the Texas senator is vetting Cary Fiorina, a former CEO of Hewlett-Packard who dropped out of the presidential race in February and endorsed Cruz in March. An aide to Fiorina confirmed to The Hill that she is being considered.

Cruz spokeswoman Alice Stewart said the campaign is in the process of vetting prospective running mates but cautioned that nothing’s been decided.

“When that decision has been made, we will share it,” she said.

The 2016 running mate competition is more unpredictable than usual this cycle, given the possibility that Republicans could convene in Cleveland without knowing who their nominee will be. 

Trump has signaled he won’t choose a running mate until he is sure he has locked up the nomination. But the other two remaining contenders are keeping their options open.

Cruz and Kasich, who is perceived by some as a more moderate candidate, have drawn speculation that they could team up on a 2016 ticket to try to deny Trump the nomination and unify a fractured party. Once bitter foes, Cruz and Kasich said late Sunday they were joining forces in an effort to block the Manhattan billionaire from winning the 1,237 delegates he needs to win on the convention’s first ballot.

Kasich said he’d let Cruz take on Trump in Indiana, and Cruz said he’d allow Kasich to wage war against Trump in Democratic-leaning states like Oregon and New Mexico. Trump called the Cruz-Kasich collaboration “pathetic” and nothing short of “collusion.”

But Borges offered this prediction: “Kasich and Cruz won’t end up as running mates.”

In an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, Kasich said he’s now got some “old hands” vetting potential running mates. “You don’t want to have yourself in a position where you have to pick somebody out of a hat” in Cleveland, the governor said.

One GOP strategist familiar with planning for the convention added, “Everybody will have a VP pick ready to go.” 

The vice presidential nominee is already allotted a prime speaking spot at the convention. And that person will have to hit the ground running in the days immediately after, doing round-the-clock TV interviews and headlining campaign events and fundraisers across the country.

GOP sources said Kasich could choose someone such as New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, the head of the Republican Governors Association, or Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a onetime GOP rising star whose own presidential campaign fizzled this year. Rubio is young, Hispanic, bilingual and hails from a swing state.

Cruz has called Rubio a “terrific person to consider for vice president,” but he probably wouldn’t provide much balance on the ticket. Both are male, sons of Cuban-American immigrants and senators.

A more probable pick for Cruz is someone like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a former presidential rival who endorsed Cruz right before the Texas senator defeated Trump in the Badger State’s April 6 primary. Others in the mix include Fiorina and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

Trump surrogates say the Cruz and Kasich camps are foolish to even contemplate tapping a running mate while trailing far behind in the race for delegates.

“It’s desperate, although not as desperate as agreeing to not challenge each other in Indiana and Oregon,” said Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who endorsed Trump earlier this month.

And Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), a Cruz backer, warned all candidates to hold off on making any public announcements this early, though he said beginning to “privately” vet running mates now would be wise. 

“I don’t think anybody should be picking or making public VP selections until they win the nomination, especially Kasich,” Labrador told The Hill on Monday. “The only two candidates who even have a chance of making that selection are Cruz and Trump, but it would be premature for either to make any such announcement.”

Some delegates to the Cleveland convention agree, arguing that choosing a vice presidential nominee isn’t really up to the presidential candidates. Technically, GOP rules state that delegates hold a separate vote on determining who fills the No. 2 slot.

And while delegates have given deference to the presidential nominee in recent elections, this year could be different. In the event of a brokered convention, the vice presidential spot could be used as leverage to swing delegates from certain states one way or another.

Candidates “can pick vice presidents till the cows come home, but if the convention doesn’t agree with them, it won’t be who they want,” Curly Haugland, a Republican National Committee member and delegate from North Dakota who was just elected to the convention rules committee, said in a phone interview.

Ronald Reagan was the last GOP presidential candidate to pick a running mate before sewing up the nomination, in 1976. The former California governor was running an insurgent campaign against the sitting president, Gerald Ford.

Trailing Ford in delegates, Reagan tried to capture momentum before that cycle’s convention in Kansas City, Mo., by naming moderate Republican Sen. Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania to join him on the ticket.

The ploy generated headlines but ultimately failed; the nomination went to Ford.

That history isn’t lost on Kasich.

“You know Reagan tried to do that in 1976. He didn’t win,” Kasich told CBS.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), a Kasich surrogate who campaigned with him in Valley Forge last week, the effect of an early VP pick is unclear.

“It would probably have a bigger impact on the broader electorate and not as big an impact on the delegates,” Dent said in a phone interview from his home in Allentown.

Ben Kamisar contributed.

Tags Marco Rubio Ted Cruz

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