Using a vice presidential pick as a tactical political weapon has been tried before.
In 1976, Ronald Reagan battled incumbent Gerald Ford in primaries and caucuses leading up to the GOP convention in Kansas City. Neither man achieved a clear majority.
Yet Ford’s team had whittled away at unpledged delegates throughout the summer, giving the incumbent a narrow lead in the weeks before the August meeting.
Reagan’s team needed to do something to slow Ford’s momentum before the convention. So in late July, the former California governor said he would pick Sen. Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania as his running mate.
The announcement angered many conservative Reagan supporters, who considered Schweiker too liberal for the job. That forced the Reagan campaign into a second gambit: It proposed a convention rule forcing all presidential candidates to name their vice presidential picks before the nomination roll call.
The Reagan people believed the rule would force Ford into making an unpopular choice. Instead, it appeared to anger many delegates, who stuck with Ford. The rules change failed, and Reagan’s 1976 candidacy ended the next day.
But the attempt remains legendary in political circles — the 1976 GOP convention in Kansas City remains the last contested convention in either party. Jeff Roe, the one-time Kansas City consultant running Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign, almost certainly knows the story.
Ford eventually picked Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas for the 1976 ticket. Reagan got his revenge: He won the presidency in 1980 and made Schweiker the secretary of the Health and Human Services Department.