KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
The political world spent the day waiting for Ted Cruz to make what he was calling a major announcement. The Texas senator's losses in last night's Republican primaries make it mathematically impossible for him to win the party's presidential nomination outright. But instead of dropping out, Cruz got up on a stage in Indiana and did something only the nominee usually gets to do.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
TED CRUZ: After a great deal of time and thought, after a great deal of consideration and prayer, I have come to the conclusion if I am nominated to be president of the United States that I will run on a ticket with my vice presidential nominee Carly Fiorina.
MCEVERS: With us to talk about this is NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Hello there.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hello there.
MCEVERS: So, Mara, tell us why is Ted Cruz doing this now?
LIASSON: Because, as you just said, he's been mathematically eliminated from getting 1,237 delegates before the convention in Cleveland this summer. He is way behind Donald Trump, and he needed to do something to shake up the race because Trump is on track to get 1,237 either before Cleveland or after he arrives.
MCEVERS: Is there any precedent for this, a candidate picking a running mate without actually having won the nomination?
LIASSON: As Cruz himself said, this is very unusual. It is awfully early, but in 1976, Ronald Reagan did this. He chose Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania to be his vice presidential candidate. It didn't help him get the nomination, but four years later in 1980, Reagan came back. And he was the nominee, and Cruz is possibly thinking a lot already about 2020.
MCEVERS: So Cruz cannot win the nomination unless there is a contested Republican convention. How can Fiorina help Cruz at this point?
LIASSON: That's not clear. She helped him today because the announcement got Cruz some badly needed live television coverage, but her campaign fizzled. She is a popular surrogate for Cruz. She shares his deeply conservative views on social issues and the economy. She might be able to help him sway some unbound delegates if Trump fails to reach 1,237 before the convention.
MCEVERS: I mean, gender has been a big factor in this year's race. I mean, how much does the fact that Fiorina is a woman play into this?
LIASSON: It plays into it a lot. It helped Cruz provide a really sharp contrast to Donald Trump's own trouble with women. Trump's negative ratings with female voters are, as he would say, horrible, horrible, horrible. And Fiorina is an accomplished professional. She's a corporate leader, former presidential candidate. She could help Cruz attract some Republican women maybe in her home state of California who are leery of supporting Trump.
And today, Cruz presented Fiorina as the anti-Trump. He said she thinks through decisions. She isn't rash and impulsive. She doesn't pop off. And he also inadvertently, perhaps, made the case for Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump when he said bullies feed off fear when they yell and scream and insult and curse, and they don't know what to do when a strong, powerful woman stands up and says, I am not afraid. So you could say that Ted Cruz played the gender card today.
MCEVERS: What has been the reaction from Republicans on this establishment or otherwise?
LIASSON: Well, I think that establishment Republicans understand why Cruz did this. I don't think any of them think it's going to help him change the dynamic of the race. What's happened in the last couple of weeks with these Northeastern primaries has really been to put Trump on a path to if not 1,237 before Cleveland, to a number that many Republicans think will be so high and close enough that it will be very hard for them to deny him the nomination.
MCEVERS: That's NPR's Mara Liasson. Thanks so much.
LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.