Late Sunday evening, April 24, after the Fox News Presidential Town Hall in Philadelphia, both the campaigns of Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) and Gov. John Kasich (OH) put out similarly crafted joint statements on the future of their campaigns in the upcoming primaries. Common in both of these statements was a willingness to unite the #NeverTrump vote in Indiana around Cruz. Indiana is believed to be a crucial state to keep Trump from acquiring 1237 delegates before the Republican National Convention in mid-July. In return, Cruz campaign has agreed to cease from campaigning in New Mexico and Oregon for Kasich to compete for delegates in those proportional contests.
However, serious doubts remain as to what extent this pact will have an effect on the current race. On one hand, it could help put Cruz over the top in Indiana, where he’s currently trailing by around 6% in the RealClearPolitics average, but it could also feed right into the narrative that the Trump campaign is pushing: that the system is rigged and that the party insiders are working to stop him in any way they can. I’d argue that the closest thing that we’ve seen to this type of strategic voting in the race so far was when Rubio and his campaign were openly telling his supporters in Ohio to vote for Kasich in order to stop Trump. Rubio ended up only getting 2.9% of the vote in Ohio, although his polling average was only 4.2% coming into the state to begin with, so not much can be taken from this example.
With Trump’s big win in NY and his expected sweep of over 90% of the bound delegates to be awarded on April 26, the Cruz campaign has begun to realize that they must work with the Kasich campaign going forward to help assure a contested convention. There have been concerns whether or not Kasich was colluding with Trump behind the scenes, since it was reported that his loyalists teamed up with Trump supporters in Michigan to deny Cruz delegates positions on the Rules Committee. Perhaps this newly formed agreement between the campaigns is some reassurance to the #NeverTrump movement that Kasich is indeed not fooling around when he has repeatedly stated that he’s not going to take any offers to be anyone’s Vice President. The time his campaign and supporting PACs spent attacking Cruz in Wisconsin and Utah were perhaps their way of trying to force the Cruz campaign to agree to work with them in dividing up states to allocate resources in. There is a good chance that Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Delaware were part of this deal as well, as the Cruz campaign has been nowhere to be seen in those states, while Kasich has campaigned in them all.
If this newly formed alliance helps put Cruz over the top in Indiana, the narrative for the race will have changed once more. Upcoming states like Nebraska, Washington, Montana, and South Dakota are all seen to be Cruz-friendly, and he’ll also likely come out with a good chunk of delegates from New Mexico and Oregon – both strictly proportional contests. The race then turns to California, where the Cruz campaign has been organizing for almost a year, has secured the endorsements of over fifty local Republican politicans and also the endorsements of multiple former GOP Chairmen in the state. We could see another, similar pact between Cruz and Kasich, where Cruz focuses in on LA County and Southern California, while Kasich focuses in on the liberal/moderate Bay Area which has over half a dozen congressional districts surrounding it – perhaps more fertile ground for him.
If Cruz can win Indiana, and hold on to Nebraska, Montana, South Dakota, and come off with some delegates along with Kasich in New Mexico and Oregon, Trump’s chances of reaching 1237 will greatly be diminished. He could be limited to winning only West Virginia and New Jersey after April 26, thus opening the door wide for a Cruz nomination on the second or third ballot at a contested convention.