Cruz picks Fiorina as running mate

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“She knows how to produce jobs, how to expand jobs, how to raise wages,” Cruz said. “She knows firsthand the key to economic growth is not more and more government, it’s less and less government.”

Joining Cruz on the stage at the rally, Fiorina said she was “very proud and humbled and honored.” Then she took aim at the front-runners in the race, saying that Trump and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton would be “disastrous for this country.”

“This is a fight for the soul of our party and the future of our nation,” Fiorina said.

Speculation that Cruz would announce a running mate started swirling earlier in the day after the Texas senator teased that he had a “major announcement” to make. Campaign manager Jeff Roe earlier this week confirmed the campaign had arrived at a short list of possible vice presidential candidates.

Fiorina surged to the top tier of GOP presidential candidates last August and September following widely praised debate performances. However, her stock quickly fell and by early 2016 she was relegated back to the undercard debate for low-polling GOP candidates. Cruz, in his speech Wednesday, praised Fiorina’s handling of a moment during a September debate at the Ronald Reagan library when she pushed back at Trump, who had criticized her looks in a recent interview.

“I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said,” Fiorina retorted stonily during the debate in Simi Valley, Calif.

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At the beginning of this year’s election cycle, Jenny Brake of Carmel, Ind., said it was a hard choice between Cruz and Fiorina among the large field of GOP contenders. Now, the two combining forces is a “dream come true,” said Brake, 59.

“She just represents sort of the small guy that gets to the top,” Brake said. “That succeeds in business and at home and family life. Also the struggles that she has had — she is just kind of ‘every woman.’ ”

Cruz finds himself in a tricky spot politically in the Hoosier state as he plays to his social conservative roots but also tries to appeal to more moderate supporters of Ohio Gov. John Kasich. In a strategic move aimed at stopping Trump, Kasich isn’t campaigning in Indiana ahead of the May 3 primary to give Cruz a greater chance at denying delegates to the billionaire real estate mogul.

Fiorina appears to have the support of Cruz’s biggest financial benefactor.

Last June, a pro-Cruz super PAC funded by New York hedge funder Robert Mercergave $500,000 to a group supporting Fiorina’s candidacy. Mercer, a reclusive and ultra-conservative billionaire, has pumped more than $13 million into the presidential contest to support Cruz’s candidacy so far.

Asked about that donation earlier this year, Kristina Hernandez, a spokeswoman for the Mercer-funded super PAC, told USA TODAY that “we … knew from the beginning she was a true conservative with a message that would resonate.”

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Some questioned how much Fiorina’s selection would affect the overall GOP race.

“This pick is an attempt to mute Trump’s appeal to voters who want a political outsider, but it is unlikely to have much impact,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute in a statement. “Republican voters already have an outsider candidate they like.”

Earlier Wednesday, Trump weighed in on the possibility of a Cruz-Fiorina ticket on Fox News Channel’s Fox & Friends. “Well, I think it hurts him. I can’t imagine he does it. First of all, he shouldn’t be naming anybody because he doesn’t even have a chance.”

On the Democratic side, Sen. Barbara Boxer, who defeated Fiorina in a 2010 Senate race in California, tweeted that she predicted “the latest @CarlyFiorina merger will be as successful as her last one,” referring to the 2002 merger of Compaq and Hewlett-Packard while Fiorina was CEO of the tech company.

Democratic National Committee CEO Amy Dacey blasted the pick, calling it a “desperate move from a desperate and dying campaign.”

The early announcement of a running mate is not unprecedented. In 1976, Ronald Reagan named an  early running mate — Pennsylvania Sen. Richard S. Schweiker — as part of his bid to defeat President Gerald Ford. That gambit did not work, as Ford prevailed over Reagan at the 1976 Republican conventio

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