Ted Cruz Picks Up Key Endorsement: Can Backhanded Support Save His Nomination?

In an odd twist of affairs in what must seem to observers as an interminable primary season, Texas Senator Ted Cruz has picked up the endorsement of Indiana Governor Mike Pence. The governor’s seal of approval comes at a critical time for Cruz, who picks up this crucial endorsement ahead of Tuesday’s Indiana primary, which retains a slate of delegates Cruz sorely needs. At stake for Cruz are 57 delegates, which may well determine whether rival and frontrunner Donald Trump has a clear path to the Republican nomination, or whether there will be a contested Republican convention in which Cruz has a chance to pull of an eleventh-hour upset.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence endorses Ted Cruz [Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images]In picking up the endorsement, Cruz retains a chance at winning the Tuesday contest despite currently trailing in the polls. Pence, up for re-election this coming fall, is a very popular figure in Indiana, and is also seen as a possible future presidential candidate within the Republican Party. Similarly picking up an endorsement from Governor Scott Walker aided Cruz in scoring an upset win in Wisconsin, which remains his only large-state victory to date. The Wisconsin victory comes with one major caveat; picking up Walker’s endorsement was a reflection of the entire Wisconsin Republican apparatus, who stumped for the Senator and even made talk radio appearances on his behalf.

Despite picking up Pence’s endorsement, Cruz cannot seem to escape Trump’s ever-looming shadow. In revealing that he planned to vote for Cruz, the governor worded his endorsement in such a manner that it could be argued that Trump picked up his endorsement as well. According to the Dallas Morning News, Pence noted that while he wholeheartedly admired Cruz’s record as a principled conservative of the Reagan type, “I particularly want to commend Donald Trump who has given a voice to millions of Americans.” Pence further noted that while Cruz was indeed picking up his endorsement, he fully intended to support whoever the GOP nominee turned out to be.

Cruz and Fiorina play Indiana [Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]Such a qualified endorsement has to be troubling for Cruz, who hoped to gain momentum prior to the Indiana primary by announcing former rival and one-time Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina as his running mate should he win the Republican nomination. The selection of Fiorina indeed may have played a role in Cruz picking up such a lukewarm endorsement from Pence, as the Indiana governor had been considered by observers to be a potential Cruz running mate.

Furthering such speculation, Pence announced that Cruz had picked up his nomination on the radio show hosted by Greg Garrison, one of the chief prosecutors in former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson’s highly-publicized rape trial. Interestingly enough, Trump picked up Tyson’s celebrity endorsement earlier in the race. Tyson aside, Pence decided to announce that Cruz had picked up his nomination on Garrison’s show, while electing to skip Cruz’s rally Friday in Jeffersonville, Indiana.

In typical Trump style, the Republican frontrunner was dismissive of both Cruz’s naming of a running mate, as well as the Senator having picked up Pence’s endorsement. With a 329 delegate lead over Cruz heading into the final round of primaries, Trump perhaps had good cause to not care about any endorsement Cruz may pick up at this juncture. Trump needs roughly 42 percent of the remaining delegates to secure the nomination; a number which drops to 36 percent should he win Indiana’s rich trove of 57 delegates.

Further, some observers, including Trump, see both Cruz’s drive to continue picking up endorsements and naming a running mate as signs of desperation. It is unusual for a candidate who is not the presumptive nominee to name a running mate, and in naming Fiorina, Cruz may have alienated Pence, even while picking up his endorsement.

[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]