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For Cruz, Stressing Fiorina's Texas Ties Could be a Stretch

When GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz announced Carly Fiorina as his would-be running mate Wednesday, he set the wheels in motion for a potential dual Texan ticket. Or at least Texanish.

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When GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz announced Carly Fiorina as his would-be running mate Wednesday, he set the wheels in motion for a potential dual Texas ticket. Or at least Texanish.

"Fiorina's from Texas?" asked David Crockett, a political science professor at Trinity University. "I thought she was from California."

Unlike the state's junior senator, who hails from Canada and now lives in Houston, Fiorina was born in Texas, but it's unclear if her Austin roots will boost Cruz's diminishing chances of capturing the GOP nomination.

Fiorina left Texas when she was two, and she highlighted her California bona fides during her own brief bid for the nomination. She now lives in Virginia, but Cruz focused on her state of birth during his announcement on Wednesday.

"Born in Texas," Cruz said of Fiorina's biography. "The very first thing I liked about her."

Read MoreTed Cruz Taps Carly Fiorina as Running Mate

The duo's shared links to the Lone Star State are unlikely to play a significant role moving forward, said Bruce Buchanan, a government professor at the University of Texas at Austin. 

"It depends on who wants to make something out of it," Buchanan said. "It might turn out to matter to some people in the state. My guess is that right off the top of the pile it's not going to be a big deal."

If Cruz manages to wrest the Republican nomination away from frontrunner Donald Trump, he and Fiorina would comprise the first presidential ticket boasting two Texans by birth or choice. The rules for the Electoral College say an elector cannot cast both of their ballots for candidates from the same state, although Crockett said that rule would not apply to Fiorina and Cruz, who now live in different states.

"A good example would be [George W. Bush] and Dick Cheney," Crockett said. Before Bush tapped Cheney to be his vice president, Cheney had to relocate from Dallas to his home state of Wyoming to re-establish residency there. "If he had been from Texas as the candidate, it's not against the Constitution to do that, but a Texas elector could not cast a ballot for Bush and a ballot for Cheney." 

'Two Texans rather than one,' I think might be a difficult sell in broad swaths of the country.— Cal Jillson, political science professor at Southern Methodist University

For Cruz and Fiorina, the significance of their shared Texas backgrounds is not a constitutional question but one of political value. Buchanan said rather than highlighting their ties to a particular state, Cruz and Fiorina would be wise to keep their focus on the big picture.

"If I'm running for president, I don't think I want to stress my regional or state affiliation, either for myself or my running mate," Buchanan said. "I think what I would want to do is speak to my credentials for addressing national problems, and I think that would be the case here, too."

Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, predicted Fiorina's Texas ties would be a non-issue for most voters as "it's a stretch" to call her a Texan. Jillson said Cruz's presidential bid might even suffer if he does choose to emphasize their shared origins. 

"Cruz got himself in extraordinary difficulty by talking about 'New York values' in a derisive way," Jillson said. "So the idea that he will now come back and say, 'The salvation of this nation in the 21st century is more Texans, two Texans rather than one,' I think might be a difficult sell in broad swaths of the country."

If anything, Crockett said Cruz may be looking to utilize Fiorina's connection to California rather than to Texas. 

"He might be trying to put California into play on June the 7th, not for the general election but getting Republican voters in California who might have voted for her losing bid for the Senate seat a couple years ago to think, 'Hmm, OK, I'll vote for him instead of Donald Trump,'" Crockett said. 

At the very least, Jillson said Texas residents could choose to create fanfare around the two-Texan ticket. 

"Texans will smile," he said. "This is what we do. But the rest of the country looks at Texas with a mix of puzzlement and disdain when we do that kind of stuff."

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin and Southern Methodist University have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here. 

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