Sleeping with the Frenemy

By | 4/25/2016 Leave a Comment
Ted Cruz & John Kasich Team Up to Stop Trump

In a further sign of the growing desperation within the Cruz campaign to stop Donald Trump from amassing the 1.237 delegates he needs, it announced Sunday that it had agreed to something that only a month ago it had steadfastly refused to – a divvying up of states with rival John Kasich.

Accordingly, the Kasich campaign has agreed to back away from campaigning in the upcoming Indiana race, while in return Cruz will cede the Oregon and New Mexico contests to the Ohio Governor.

However, there are a number of flaws to this strategy that render it flimsy at best.

Firstly, in the case of Indiana, with voting day being little more than a week away, many voters in the state will have already made up their minds. For those that haven’t, gestures such as the cancellation of two campaign rallies Mr. Kasich had planned there on Tuesday is unlikely to have any ground-shaking effect. These aren’t, after all, arena-packing media events like the ones Mr. Trump is able command, and the absence of a few subdued, town hall-style gatherings is likely to go largely unnoticed.

Furthermore, while Kasich may withdraw his media advertising in the state, there is no obligation on the part of his super Pac ‘New Day for America’ to follow suit and no indication that they will.

There is also no definitive polling data to suggest that current Kasich support would automatically switch to Cruz should he no longer be in the race. In fact there’s an argument to be made that Trump would be as likely to gain from Kasich being off the ballot as Cruz, depending upon the state in question.

And therein lies the key flaw with this strategy – Kasich (and Cruz in the other two states agreed upon) will be on the ballot on voting day. Neither candidate will have dropped out of the race, nor do they intend to. Voting tactically when your team is out of the running is one thing, but voting for a candidate you don’t support when yours is still ‘in it to win it’ is a very different scenario.

That just leaves the undecided and at this late stage there simply aren’t a whole lot of them left. And the few that are will still walk into the voting booth on May 3rd with three current candidates to choose from – not two.

As for Oregon and New Mexico – Kasich’s reward in this Faustian bargain – these are western states that Cruz would be expected to dominate over Kasich whatever the circumstances, and Cruz’s much larger and better-funded network of super PACs are likely to spend big in both states in support of their candidate.

Mr. Kasich will cry foul, of course, and Mr. Cruz will plead innocent. After all, “legally” he has no control over what they do. His non-campaign affiliated surrogates on the other hand are free to do just as they please – and rest assured they will.

The upshot:

While this latest gambit is almost certainly too little too late, Trump’s current poll lead in Indiana is healthy but not invulnerable, so he’ll need to invest time and money over the next week to ensure he comes out on top. But the only real loser in this will be John Kasich, who over the coming weeks is likely to find out that he’s been played by the wily Cruz like a well-tuned fiddle.

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