Cruz, Kasich Team Up In Latest Effort To Stop Donald Trump

Ted Cruz and John Kasich have come up with yet another plan to stop Donald Trump.

In what may be the final, desperate, parting shot of the effort of Republican insiders to stop Donald Trump from getting the delegate majority he needs to win the GOP nomination on the first ballot, Ted Cruz and John Kasich’s campaigns have apparently agreed to collude in upcoming primary states:

Senator Ted Cruz and Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio have agreed to coordinate in future primary contests in a last-ditch effort to deny Donald J. Trump the Republican presidential nomination, with each candidate standing aside in certain states amid growing concerns that Mr. Trump cannot otherwise be stopped.

In a statement late Sunday night, Mr. Cruz’s campaign manager, Jeff Roe, said that the campaign would “focus its time and resources in Indiana and in turn clear the path for Governor Kasich to compete in Oregon and New Mexico.”

Minutes after Mr. Roe’s statement, the Kasich campaign put out a similar message. The Ohio governor’s chief strategist, John Weaver, said that his campaign would shift its resources to states in the West and “give the Cruz campaign a clear path in Indiana.”

Both campaigns said they expected allies and third-party groups to follow their lead, and a representative from the “super PAC” supporting Mr. Kasich confirmed late Sunday that it would not advertise in Indiana.

The arrangement is a striking departure for Mr. Cruz, who has in the past rebuffed calls from some Republican leaders — including members of the Kasich campaign and Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee — to divvy up states in an effort to complicate Mr. Trump’s path.

The move also signals a major shift in tone from the Cruz campaign toward Mr. Kasich, whom Cruz aides have long cast as a spoiler in the race. Mr. Cruz has openly questioned whether Mr. Kasich was auditioning to be Mr. Trump’s vice president.

But Indiana, which votes on May 3, is seen as critical to Mr. Cruz’s chances of keeping Mr. Trump safely beneath the delegate count required for the nomination. In a signal of Indiana’s importance, Mr. Cruz has held several events in the state in recent days, giving relatively little attention to the five states that vote on Tuesday, when he is expected to lose more delegates to Mr. Trump.

Mr. Kasich’s team had hoped to coordinate in this manner much sooner. Last month, at a debate in Miami, Mr. Weaver broached the possibility with Mr. Roe of splitting the remaining states in an effort to minimize Mr. Trump’s delegate haul. Mr. Cruz’s team rejected the overture, in part because it would have meant ceding the spotlight in high-profile contests, such as New York, in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states. Mr. Weaver and Mr. Roe reached the accord this time and the two candidates did not discuss it, according to an adviser to Mr. Kasich.

What changed between the talks last month and now, according to Mr. Cruz’s advisers, is that there are few states left on the calendar and Mr. Cruz must stop Mr. Trump in Indiana.

Mr. Trump’s landslide victory in New York last week and an expected win Tuesday in a handful of Eastern states has demoralized those Republicans hoping to halt his candidacy. They fear that if he wins Indiana after his run of recent success, the appetite and financing to block him in the remaining states will dissipate. Indiana is also one of the few remaining states before California votes on June 7 where there is much indecision. The intervening states either clearly favor Mr. Trump or Mr. Cruz, or they will scatter their delegates through some proportional approach.

Public polling in Indiana shows Mr. Cruz trailing Mr. Trump, in part because Mr. Kasich is threatening to win a significant number of votes, particularly in the Indianapolis area, which is filled with more affluent Republicans. Indiana awards delegates based on congressional district results and the overall winner; five of the state’s nine districts include or immediately border the county that is home to Indianapolis.

A Fox News survey released last week showed Mr. Trump taking 41 percent of the vote while Mr. Cruz received 33 percent and Mr. Kasich 16 percent. But without Mr. Kasich in the race, Mr. Trump’s lead narrowed to two points.

The timing was crucial, too. Mr. Cruz now will have more than a week of campaigning in Indiana unimpeded by Mr. Kasich. And with Oregon starting its early voting this week, the two camps had to come to an agreement. At this late stage, it is unclear how effective the effort might be at swaying voters, especially if the campaigns do not give more explicit instructions. Unlike a similar gambit last month, when Senator Marco Rubio urged supporters in Ohio to vote for Mr. Kasich to slow Mr. Trump, there was no such request in the two statements on Sunday.

Mr. Weaver said the campaign was “very comfortable with our delegate position in Indiana already,” a reference to success in lining up individual delegates from the state to the national convention. (These delegate will be bound to the results of next month’s primary on the first convention ballot but will be free agents should there be subsequent ballots.) As for why Mr. Cruz’s campaign showed a willingness to deal now, Mr. Kasich’s advisers noted that he was in a stronger position when it rejected the overture that took place over a month ago.

As of late Sunday night, a website listing scheduled events for the Kasich campaign no longer included two rallies in Indiana that had been planned for Tuesday.

The abrupt change placed some campaign allies in an awkward spot. Trusted Leadership PAC, a “super PAC” supporting Mr. Cruz, announced on Friday that it planned to spend $1.6 million in Indiana, unveiling an attack ad against Mr. Kasich. “He just said Republicans have no ideas,” the group says of Mr. Kasich. “He’s right insofar as we have no idea why he is still running.”

Mr. Roe said the campaign planned to “compete vigorously to win” in any other states not mentioned in the statement. But Mr. Cruz’s advisers said he was willing to punt on Oregon and New Mexico, which together account for 52 delegates, because the campaign needed to offer states with approximately the same number of delegates as Indiana’s 57. And Oregon and New Mexico are proportional states, so they are not likely to hand either candidate a significant trove of delegates.

On paper at least, the strategy that Cruz and Kasich are engaging in here seems as though it may end up being too little, too late given the current momentum of the race. While being locked out of Indiana would make things difficult for Trump going forward, it would still be possible for him to walk into Cleveland with a slim majority of the delegates, or close enough to that majority to leave open the possibility that Trump could make a deal with the non insubstantial group of unbound delegates to give him a first ballot majority after all. Second, by jumping over the mid-Atlantic primaries that will be held tomorrow, where Trump seems to have a fairly substantial majority, this latest plan seems to concede yet another large chunk of of delegates to Trump that will make it even more likely that he will get the nomination an make any effort to deny him that nomination appear to the public to be a manipulation of the rules to undermine the will of the voters, a move that could cause real harm to the reputation of the GOP going forward. Additionally, the plan itself, which is obviously aimed more at using Indiana as the latest battleground on which to stop Trump seems more like just another example of a strategy that has already failed. Kasich supporters, for example, aren’t going to necessarily line up behind Cruz in Indiana regardless of what the Kasich campaign asks them to do, and Cruz supporters in Oregon and New Mexico aren’t necessarily going to line up behind Kasich. Finally, it’s worth noting that early and absentee voting has already started in Indiana so it’s already unclear just how much impact this pact can have on the race when there are already votes that are locked in. In all three states, there’s likely to be a substantial number of supporters of both candidates who stick with their candidate and at least some of them could react to these machinations by deciding to line up behind Trump just to bring the battle to an end. Given that Indiana is a Winner Take All state, it wouldn’t take much for Trump to win the state in that kind of environment.

In addition to the fact that it’s unclear if this plan can succeed, this plan by the Cruz and Kasich campaigns arguably plays right into the argument that Trump has been making for weeks now that the Republican nomination process is ‘rigged,’ a message that seems to be resonating quite strongly with voters. Even if he’s not right, the sight of two campaigns teaming up like this to not win a primary battle but prevent another candidate from winning in the hope that they can then manipulate the delegates on the convention floor regardless of what the voters might have to say about the matter is not likely to sit well with a lot of voters, and it’s one that could send voters into Trump camps out of continued frustration with an establishment that  is obviously more concerned with consolidating its own political power than representing the American public and dealing with the issues that the public cares about. It’s attitude such as this that has sent voters into the arms of candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders this year. Continuing it will only guarantee that voter dissatisfaction will get worse, that the political culture will become more polarized and cynical, and that nothing will get done.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, US Politics, , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Mark Ivey says:

    I love the Republican party civil war… :))

  2. James Pearce says:

    Kasich has no business still being in the race. He has won a single state, is in such a distant third place that he can’t even play spoiler for anyone but Cruz. Cruz “teaming up” with Kasich just makes him look weak.

    They’re like two midgets, one standing on the other’s shoulders, trying to pass themselves off as a man of average height.

    (And yes, I know “midget” isn’t the appropriate term for “little people.” But it is for Cruz and Kasich.)

  3. gVOR08 says:

    As a confirmed liberal, I’d rather run against Cruz than Trump. But the barest possibility of Cruz, by some mischance, becoming president makes my skin crawl. Trump is less scary than Cruz. Kasich is less scary than Trump. And I despise Kasich. He’s my Governor, a bankster and a founder of ALEC. I’m going to have to root for injuries, and a fractured convention. And Hillary.

  4. Blue Galangal says:

    Pinky: Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?
    Brain: The same thing we do every night, Pinky – try to take over the world!

  5. Pch101 says:

    Now the GOP establishment will owe Cruz a favor. It will be more difficult to engineer an alternative ticket to Trump that doesn’t include Cruz at the head of it or for the establishment to call for a 2016 boycott, and the establishment will have to voice its support for Cruz even though it despises him.

  6. Mister Bluster says:

    I don’t think I’m going to lose, but if I do, I don’t think you’re ever going to see me again, folks. Citizen Trump
    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/donald-trump-lose-don-t-220939081.html

    Promises, promises…

  7. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Pch101: Oh what a tangled web we weave…

  8. gVOR08 says:

    Conventional wisdom among the horse race punditry seems to be that Trump would lose big and destroy the Party, while Cruz would only lose big. I disagree, but that’s the conventional wisdom. The fact that either, if elected, would do great damage to the country seems to be a matter of indifference to the GOP establishment.

  9. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:

    It may be less a matter of indifference to them than it is an acceptance of reality: Either Trump or Cruz will lose to Clinton, so worrying about who’d be worse, Trump or Cruz, is pointless.

  10. Neil Hudelson says:

    @gVOR08:

    I’m beginning to think its the opposite as well (that is, I agree with your disagreement). With a Trump win, the GOP can claim that he was never “one of us.” A Cruz win will finally give the RWNJ’s their candidate.

    If Trump wins in Cleveland, I expect Cruz will be the nominee in 2020.

    THEN the party will tear itself apart–a fascist candidate followed by a theocratic candidate will be too much.

  11. C. Clavin says:

    Meanwhile the Trump camp admits it has been conning the primary electorate all along.
    An aide on Trump:

    When he’s out on the stage, when he’s talking about the kinds of things he’s talking about on the stump, he’s projecting an image that’s for that purpose

    Trump on himself:

    “It’s easier for me to be presidential than for me to be doing what I’ve been doing for the last, really, nine months…But at the right time, I will be so presidential, you will be so bored.

    So wait…he’s not going to make Mexico pay for that wall? He’s not going to storm into the Middle East and just take all their oil? He’s not going to kill all the terrorists families? He’s not going to waterboard anyone?
    Won’t the base be awfully disappointed? Again? I thought the whole point is that Trump was the straight shooter than tells it like it is?

  12. @James Pearce:

    Kasich has no business still being in the race. He has won a single state, is in such a distant third place that he can’t even play spoiler for anyone but Cruz.

    Kasich’s actually in fourth place. He’s doing so badly that Rubio has more delegates right now than he does.

  13. Gromitt Gunn says:

    You know your campaign is pointless when you are the Republican Governor of a large swing state and you concede 2nd place in the Republican Primary of your Very Red Neighbor to a theocrat from Texas.

  14. James Pearce says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    With a Trump win, the GOP can claim that he was never “one of us.”

    I’m not so sure this is how things will shake out.

    The primary voters supporting Trump should force us to re-evaluate the “”we need a REAL conservative” stuff. I mean, did it ever make sense that voters wanted a more conservative candidate? The last “conservative” who won a presidential election did so by running as a “compassionate conservative.” Even though Grover Norquist and other paid consultants have an appetite for a REAL conservative, it’s been clear for many years now that the public does not.

    Trump’s successfully running an insurgent campaign that is most definitely not conservative. Conclusion: GOP voters in 2016 don’t want a REAL conservative. They don’t even want a conservative.

  15. Scott says:

    There really is no reason for Kasich to drop out. He has his delegates and that gives him leverage. BTW, why are so many thinking that Kasich is anti-Trump and pro-Cruz? It is just as likely he would support Trump over Cruz and is waiting for the right time to stick it to Cruz, joining the many other politicians who would like to do the same.

  16. @Scott:

    BTW, why are so many thinking that Kasich is anti-Trump and pro-Cruz? It is just as likely he would support Trump over Cruz and is waiting for the right time to stick it to Cruz, joining the many other politicians who would like to do the same.

    Damn it, GRRM! Do you see what your failure to complete Winds of Winter is doing to us?

  17. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Meanwhile the Trump camp admits it has been conning the primary electorate all along.

    Isn’t this what Marco was saying, that he’s a con artist?

    So who or what is the “real Donald”?

    I’ve come to the conclusion that a significant portion of the electorate are not interested in facts or principled policy positions.

    Rather they want to be entertained

  18. Jenos Idanian says:

    (Note to self: start buying popcorn in bulk.)

  19. Jen says:

    This *might* have mattered had they figured this out a month or more ago. Trump still might not reach 1237, but their best argument for a contested convention with a non-Trump outcome would have been if the delegate count were truly fractured, not so much if Trump is only down by a handful of delegates.

    It is fascinating to watch though.

  20. Pch101 says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:

    Indiana is a different world from Ohio. This is not the South; the two states don’t share much in the way of regional cultural connections, and their geographic proximity to each other makes no difference.

    It’s not as if Californians voted for John McCain just because he was from Arizona. Politically speaking, the two states may as well be on different planets.

  21. Pch101 says:

    @Scott:

    The GOP establishment has three basic problems with Trump:

    -He isn’t a trustworthy, loyal Republican
    -His (supposed) opposition to free trade is off-message (large Republican donors don’t like it)
    -His failure to support tax cuts for the wealthy is off-message (large Republican donors don’t like it)

    The GOP establishment has one basic problem with Cruz: He’s doesn’t play nicely with others within the party. (“Cruz” and “team player” do not belong in the same sentence.)

    From the standpoint of an establishment party insider, neither are desirable but the former is much worse than the latter. Cruz is a PITA and does not know his place, but he can be managed. Trump is a loose cannon and will never be manageable.

  22. Jen says:

    This alliance does pretty much put to rest my main potential conspiracy theory though.

    I thought that Trump could select Kasich as his running mate (the batting around has actually been pretty mild up to this point), and then when Trump realizes how badly he’s going to lose, he steps aside (he hates losing) and Kasich, long the only Republican who has had numbers that could potentially beat Hillary, leads the ticket. Basically, the October Surprise to end all October Surprises, etc.

    A random musing, to be sure–but, that is the gift this election cycle has given us: the permission to think in terms of the silliest political novels we’ve ever come across.

  23. James Pearce says:

    @Scott:

    There really is no reason for Kasich to drop out. He has his delegates and that gives him leverage.

    Leverage for what exactly?

  24. grumpy realist says:

    @James Pearce: To be a nuisance.

  25. C. Clavin says:

    @Pch101:

    -His failure to support tax cuts for the wealthy is off-message (large Republican donors don’t like it)

    Ahhh…but he does.
    Trumps tax plan gives the bottom 80 percent of taxpayers a tax rate drop of between 0.9 percent and 4.8 percent…for the top 20% the rate would fall 7.2%, while Trump and the rest of the 1%ers would get a 12.5 percent cut. This adds up to the biggest tax cut in history…even bigger than Saint Ronnie’s….which of course Reagan was forced to reverse because it was too much.
    Trump rates out at like 9%+/- for telling the truth. There is absolutely no possible way to tell what he supports or doesn’t support.

  26. C. Clavin says:

    Bruce Bartlett, one of the last few Conservatives in this country, on why he voted for Trump in the VA primary:

    I think the Republican Party is sick. It’s dying, it just doesn’t know it. And I think anything that speeds up its demise is to the good, because then it can reinvent itself and return as something healthy. Or you could use an addiction metaphor, where people have to hit bottom so that they can reach out and ask for help before they can cure themselves. I think that Trump is a symptom of a disease of rampant stupidity, pandering to morons and bigots and racists and all the sort of stuff that defines today’s Republican coalition.

  27. al-Ameda says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Bruce Bartlett:
    “I think that Trump is a symptom of a disease of rampant stupidity, pandering to morons and bigots and racists and all the sort of stuff that defines today’s Republican coalition”

    You know, Bruce just summed it up perfectly.

  28. James Pearce says:

    @grumpy realist:

    To be a nuisance

    Sure, and the liberal inside me takes some delight in that, but………..

    Kasich has no chance to win the nomination (without some major shenanigans) and if his only purpose in the presidential race is to be a nuisance, then that strikes me as a pretty good reason why he should drop out.

    It’s not like he’s going to be a bigger nuisance than Trump, after all.

  29. Pch101 says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Trump’s sincerity or lack thereof isn’t the problem. The issue is with the tone, which is all wrong and out of sync with the establishment. It’s far too populist when it comes to trade and taxes.

    That crosses the branding line for the GOP establishment. Free trade agreements and the core of the trickle-down sacred cow (tax cuts are always good and never bad) are absolutely off-limits.

  30. grumpy realist says:

    @Pch101: It is amusing reading the WSJ articles about Trump (who they detest). They do however realize that Cruz has burned his bridges with the Republican Establishment even more.

    For someone who keeps claiming how intelligent he is, Cruz’s sense of tactics stinks.

  31. Pch101 says:

    @grumpy realist:

    If Cruz wants to bail out of politics and become a media figure (which I suspect is the case), then he has done a great job of building his brand.

    I suspect that Cruz’s future is on Fox News and as an author. That would be far more lucrative than a political career. Running for president just makes the next book deal more valuable.

  32. CSK says:

    @Pch101:

    Sure. He’ll bail from the senate and become a highly-paid commentator and “author. ” I have no way of citing this, but several years ago I read an article that claimed that Newt Gingrich told Sarah Palin that the best way to get a lucrative book contract was by running for president. Or pretending to run for president.

  33. Barry says:

    @Mark Ivey: “I love the Republican party civil war… :))”

    I feel guilty about wishing for actual riots in Cleveland.

    I do.

  34. Barry says:

    @Neil Hudelson: “A Cruz win will finally give the RWNJ’s their candidate.”

    Not if he loses. Remember, Bush went from saint to ‘who?’.

  35. George Vreeland Hill says:

    If the GOP is successful in blocking Donald Trump from the nomination, then they will lose possibly millions of Trump voters who will not vote Republican, write-in Trump or vote for Clinton.
    Any effort to deny Trump (including this) will not only be bad for the party, but will make The Donald stronger.
    In the long run, the Republican strategy will put Hillary Clinton in the White House for eight years because bad GOP voter feelings will last a very long time.

    George Vreeland Hill

  36. Grewgills says:

    @James Pearce:
    He doesn’t have a chance at the nomination sans major shenanigans and not a realistic one even with shenanigans. He can wait till just before the convention to strike a deal with Trump though. If Trump is coming up about a 100 shy of 1237 Kasich could agree to drop out just before the convention freeing up his delegates for the first round vote. If he did that and Trump put him on the ticket that could be enough to get Trump a first ballot win. That’s the only thing I can see Kasich holding on for. Well, that or he’s being offered something by the establishment to help torpedo Trump and Cruz. I can’t see that working, but I can see establishment types trying it as they’ve tried worse.

  37. mike shupp says:

    A slightly distressing thought: We’ve now got this splendid tactic of bollixing up the first convention ballot for a presidential contender, so that “released” delegates can vote for someone else on subsequent ballots. Suppose that becomes ROUTINE in future presidential campaigns. (a) Dos this jibe with the Edmund Burke-Russell Kirk school of ethical conservatism that right wing intellectuals claim to revere so highly? (b) Ignoring the ethics, is this kind of political practice good for the country in the long run?

  38. gVOR08 says:

    @mike shupp:

    Dos this jibe with the Edmund Burke-Russell Kirk school of ethical conservatism that right wing intellectuals claim to revere so highly?

    What does this have to do with Republicans?

    Ignoring the ethics, is this kind of political practice good for the country in the long run?

    How does this matter to Republicans?

  39. dmichael says:

    Let’s dispense with the fiction that Kasich is moderate and competent. His agreement with Cruz allegedly includes Cruz promising not to contest Oregon. Unfortunately, Kasich “chose not to submit a voters’ pamphlet statement.” See http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/john-kasich-oregon-voters-pamphlet. Here in Oregon (vote by mail), every registered voter receives a voters’ pamphlet (on recycled paper, naturally) detailing each candidates occupation, occupational background, educational background and prior governmental experience. It’s the candidate’s opportunity to maximize their exposure and simultaneously get free publicity. The page for the Republican Party presidential candidates show the smiling (if creepy) faces of Cruz and Trump and their “statements.” Kasich is nowhere to be found.