Late Sunday night, the Cruz and Kasich campaigns issued coordinated new releases announcing a deal to keep Donald Trump from taking the nomination.
Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe’s statement read:
Having Donald Trump at the top of the ticket in November would be a sure disaster for Republicans. Not only would Trump get blown out by Clinton or Sanders, but having him as our nominee would set the party back a generation. 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. In other states holding their elections for the remainder of the primary season, our campaign will continue to compete vigorously to win.
Chief strategist John Weaver spoke for the Kasich campaign:
Due to the fact that the Indiana primary is winner-take-all statewide and by congressional district, keeping Trump from winning a plurality in Indiana is critical to keeping him under 1237 bound delegates before Cleveland. 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.
What does this mean for the campaigns? Let’s unpack it bullet by bullet.
- It takes back the news cycle
- It signals voters in Indiana that Cruz will be the nominee
- It opens the path for a Cruz/Kasich ticket this fall
Taking back the news cycle
The press was ready to coronate Trump after his virtual sweep of New York. This Tuesday was going to add lots of fuel to that “Trump the presumptive nominee” fire. A shakeup of this magnitude (only recently we were yelling about how Kasich had to be in the Trump camp) cements the #NeverTrump movement where it needs to be, and removes all doubt that Kasich opposes Trump.
Let’s not mince words: Kasich badly needed some relevance here. This move gives it to him. Cruz needed a firewall against the dump truck of free media Trump enjoys. Both Cruz and Kasich needed to take the media cycle back, and the only way to do it was to make the equivalent of a political earthquake in the news.
As a side benefit, it ensures Trump doesn’t have a chance to get too “presidential.”
Lyin' Ted and Kasich are mathematically dead and totally desperate. Their donors & special interest groups are not happy with them. Sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 25, 2016
Yes, we’re back to “Lyin’ Ted.”
Signaling Indiana voters that Cruz is the choice
Essentially, this acts as an endorsement of Cruz by Kasich. In not-so-many-words, Kasich pulling out of Indiana, his last best hope of cementing a midwest bloc, is acquiescing that a Cruz nomination isn’t so bad.
Indiana is Cruz’s battle royale. Either it’s his Little Big Horn, or it’s Trump’s Waterloo. Making Indiana into a Trump/Cruz mano a mano is a smart move (and Cruz is a smart man). Showing voters that (1) Trump is not a foregone conclusion, and (2) Kasich is comfortable with Cruz is extremely important because it breaks Trump’s divide and conquer strategy.
Really, this needed to be done back in early March, except with Rubio and Cruz. But last ditch efforts that work are better than the best laid plans of mice and men, as they say.
The path to the Cruz/Kasich ticket
This is by no means assured or even assumed to be the price of Kasich’s support for Cruz. What we do know is that Kasich is off Trump’s “short list” for VP picks. (Yay!)
Kasich would make a good VP pick for Cruz–not a conservative’s dream, mind you–because he has a certain soft-sell approach and resonates with voters in the important rust belt states. Everyone keeps saying that nobody can win the presidency without Ohio. There you go.
The stated price of Cruz’s Indiana Purchase is Oregon and New Mexico. But that’s far from clear. Oregon votes on May 17, and New Mexico along with California on Gold Rush Tuesday, June 7. By then, Indiana, which votes on May 3, will be in the history books. Should it become apparent that Trump will not win the required 1,237 delegates, Cruz could very well roll up the “Kasich” states.
Come Cleveland, Kasich may get his wish of charging in like Teddy Roosevelt up San Juan Hill and saving the day for the Cuban candidate. It could be just enough to stop the whole affair from devolving into a viper pit. And even if it isn’t, Trump will be stopped.
Stopping Trump is now, finally, at the most desperate hour, the stated goal of all the remaining GOP candidates who are not named Donald J. Trump, and that is a very good thing.