Strategically it makes perfect sense. Neither Cruz nor Kasich can get to 1,237 via the primaries and caucuses, but if they can make sure Trump falls short too, then anyone could conceivably become the nominee in a contested convention.
Ted Cruz and John Kasich announced in statements Sunday that each candidate will cede states in the 2016 presidential race to one another in an effort to stop GOP frontrunner Donald Trump.
Cruz’s campaign manager Jeff Roe said in a statement that “to ensure that we nominate a Republican who can unify the Republican Party and win in November, our campaign will focus its time and resources in Indiana and in turn clear the path for Gov. Kasich to compete in Oregon and New Mexico, and we would hope that allies of both campaigns would follow our lead.”
Kasich’s campaign manager John Weaver wrote in a memo that, “We are very comfortable with our delegate position in Indiana already, and given the current dynamics of the primary there, we will shift our campaign’s resources West and give the Cruz campaign a clear path in Indiana.”
Officials in both the Cruz and Kasich campaigns told ABC News that the campaigns coordinated on the decisions announced tonight.
Trump tweeted Sunday night after the two announcements, “Wow, just announced that Lyin’ Ted and Kasich are going to collude in order to keep me from getting the Republican nomination. DESPERATION!”
Cruz leads Kasich in national polls but both men have been trying to be the sole beneficiary of the anti-Trump vote. Cruz has previously called Kasich a “spoiler” who has been “mathematically eliminated” from the race. Last week, Cruz told Glenn Beck that Kasich was “running to be Trump’s vice president.” Kasich has called Cruz “Senator Smear.”
Asked during an interview that aired on CNN on March 20, whether he and Cruz could team up to stop Trump, Kasich replied, “I don’t see how.” When pressed, he added, “Look, we always talk … if somebody wants to call and discuss things.”
The decision for the campaigns to cede states to one another follows Cruz’s loss in New York, which made it mathematically impossible for him to clinch the nomination based on pledged delegates.
Cruz, currently in the midst of a bus tour through Indiana, called the Hoosier state “pivotal” and a “battleground.”
“And the state of Indiana has a national platform right now, the eyes of the country are all on the Hoosier state. We are facing a choice. Do we want to be behind a campaign that is based on yelling and screaming and cursing and insulting anyone you see? Or do we want to come together behind a positive, optimistic, forward looking conservative campaign with real policy solutions to the problems facing this country?” Cruz said at a rally in Terre Haute, Indiana on Sunday.
Kasich campaign manager Weaver said that New Mexico and Oregon were appealing to their campaign because, they “are structurally similar to the Northeast politically, where Gov. Kasich is performing well.” He said the campaign expected “independent third-party groups to do the same and honor the commitments made by the Cruz and Kasich campaigns.”
Weaver added that Kasich’s campaign expected to “to compete with both the Trump and Cruz campaigns in the remaining primary states.”
A spokesman for John Kasich, Chris Schrimpf, told ABC News tonight that Kasich was no longer going to hold any public events in Indiana on Tuesday, when he was next scheduled to be in the state. His campaign had planned to hold a town hall and primary night party in the Indianapolis area on Tuesday.
Kasich is scheduled to hold two town hall meeting-style events in Oregon on Thursday.
Sunday’s move is what many in the GOP have urged on for a while—a combined “Never Trump” strategy. Both campaigns have each sought to be the one that denies Trump a first-ballot win at the Republican convention. Each has offered their own rationales for why GOP delegates would then turn to them as the party standard-bearer.
It seems a little late to going this route, but at this point it scarcely matters who finishes second and who finishes third. What matters if you don’t want Trump to be the nominee is for Trump to come in under 1,237. Then the fight begins anew for delegates, and that might also include former candidates like Rubio (who still has more than Kasich) or people who weren’t even running.
Trump, of course, says they’re desperate losers and should just get out of the way. But if that’s the case, the strategy should be easy to defeat, right?