INDIANAPOLIS (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Despite being mathematically eliminated from clinching the Republican nomination, Sen. Ted Cruz has picked a running mate.
Cruz tapped former technology executive Carly Fiorina to run as his vice presidential nominee.
The Texas senator unveiled his decision Wednesday afternoon in Indianapolis, calling Fiorina an "extraordinary leader."
"It is unusual to make the announcement as early as we're doing so now," Cruz said.
He continued, "Why now? No one is getting to 1,237 delegates. We must unite."
Already Wednesday, Fiorina seemed comfortable playing the traditional vice presidential campaign role of attacker, CBS2's Tony Aiello reported.
"Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both will be disastrous for this nation," she said.
Cruz praised Fiorina's path from secretary to chief executive officer and her past willingness to challenge GOP front-runner Donald Trump.
"Carly isn't intimidated by bullies, because she's faced challenges a lot worse than someone bellowing and yelling and insulting her face," he said.
The remark was a reference to a Trump magazine interview where the frontrunner said of Fiorina, "Look at that face – would anyone vote for that?"
In lauding Fiorina, Cruz added, "Over and over again, Carly has shattered glass ceilings."
Fiorina actually started singing on stage after accepting Cruz's offer.
"Today, I am very proud and very humbled and honored to announce that I have accepted Sen. Ted Cruz's offer to be his vice president for the Republican nomination," Fiorina said.
CBS News' Major Garrett reported this announcement is "a very strategic response" after Tuesday night's drubbing in the five Northeast primaries to Republican front-runner Donald Trump.
Garrett also reported that Republicans he spoke to called Cruz's move "very unusual."
CBS2's Dick Brennan reported Cruz is in Indiana for next Tuesday's primary, in what could be his last stand.
The 61-year-old Fiorina endorsed Cruz earlier in the year after abandoning her own presidential bid. The former chief executive at Hewlett-Packard has never held elected office.
"Carly is bright, knowledgeable, brings great financial expertise and she's a woman," said Gary Aminoff, the Los Angeles County co-chair of the Cruz campaign. Aminoff said he had also been told Fiorina was Cruz's choice.
Fiorina was the only woman in the Republican Party's crowded 2016 field.
"Of all the people who didn't make it far in the race, she was one of the best about laying out her plan, talking about who she is and her accomplishments," said Doug De Groote, a fundraiser for Cruz based near Los Angeles.
Some Cruz allies praised the selection of Fiorina, but privately questioned if it would change the trajectory of the race. Trump has won 77 percent of the delegates he needs to claim the nomination, and a win next week in Indiana will keep him on a firm path to do so.
According to CBS News, Trump has accrued 949 of the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. Cruz is second at 556.
Cruz appeared Wednesday afternoon in Indiana's capital city, having staked his candidacy on a win in the state's primary contest next Tuesday. Fiorina's California ties could also give Cruz a big boost in that state's high-stakes primary on June 7.
"Carly has incredible appeal to so many people, especially in California," De Groote said. "She can really help him here."
Her first major foray into politics was in 2010, when she ran for Senate in California and lost to incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer by 10 percentage points. She has never held elected office.
On Wednesday, Trump was careful and measured. He made a rare teleprompter speech outlining an "America first" campaign.
"We're getting out of the nation building business," Trump said in the speech.
But Trump criticized a Fiorina pick as "ridiculous" and "dumb" even before it was announced.
"First of all, he shouldn't be naming anybody because he doesn't even have a chance," the New York billionaire said in a Wednesday interview on Fox News.
"Naming Carly's dumb, because Carly didn't do well. She had one good debate -- not against me by the way, because I had an unblemished record of victories during debates -- but she had one victory on the smaller stage and that was it," Trump said.
He added, "She's a nice woman. I think that it's not going to help him at all."
Throughout her presidential bid, Fiorina emphasized her meteoric rise in the business world. A Stanford University graduate, she started her career as a secretary, earned an MBA and worked her way up at AT&T to become a senior executive at the telecom leader.
She was also dogged by questions about her record at Hewlett-Packard, where she was hired as CEO in 1999. She was fired six years later, after leading a major merger with Compaq and laying off 30,000 workers.
Democrats quickly attacked the Cruz-Fiorina alliance.
"The best way to describe that ticket is mean and meaner," said Sen. Boxer. "He wants to throw people out of the country and she threw thousands of jobs out of the country. Perfect match."
In an Associated Press-GfK poll conducted in December 2015, Republican voters were more likely to say they had a favorable than an unfavorable view of Fiorina by a 47 percent to 20 percent margin, with 32 percent unable to give a rating.
Among all Americans, 45 percent didn't know enough about Fiorina to rate her, while 22 percent rated her favorably and 32 percent unfavorably.
By contrast, both Cruz and Trump have high negative ratings even within their own party, according to an April AP-GfK poll. Among Republican voters, 52 percent have a favorable and 41 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Cruz, while 53 percent have a favorable and 46 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Trump.
Among all Americans, 59 percent had an unfavorable opinion of Cruz and 69 percent said that of Trump.
Trump campaigned Wednesday with legendary Indiana coach Bobby Knight after giving a foreign policy speech.
"I will seek a foreign policy that all Americans, whatever their party, can support ... and which our friends and allies will respect and totally welcome," Trump said. "The world must, though, that we do not go abroad in search of enemies, that we are always happy when old enemies become friends and when old friends become allies."
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton also was pivoting to the general election, taking on Trump for saying she was playing the "woman card."
"If fighting for women's health care and paid family leave and equal pay is fighting the 'woman card,' then deal me in," Clinton said.
Sen. Bernie Sanders is also in the Hoosier State campaigning ahead of next Tuesday's vote.
"We are in this campaign to win and become the Democratic nominee," Sanders said. He vowed to press on even as he lay off dozens of campaign workers.
"Our job whether, we win or whether we do not win, is to transform not only our country, but the Democratic Party," he said.
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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