Donald Trump continues to move closer to accumulating sufficient victories and delegates to claim the Republican nomination for president. In a recent effort to prevent this from happening, his two remaining opponents concocted and announced a strategy this week that took analysts somewhat by surprise.
Ted Cruz and John Kasich coordinated their campaign strategies and decided to attempt a divide and conquer tactic for the coming primaries in Indiana, Oregon and New Mexico. The gist of the idea is for Cruz to drop his bid in Oregon and New Mexico, while Kasich is to cede his campaign in Indiana. The goal of this effort is to deny Trump the delegates he is seeking and to make progress towards ensuring a contested convention.
The supposed alliance was announced late Sunday evening and got an immediate and forceful announcement from Trump. He turned to one of his favorite weapons, a colorful tweet. He used his 140 characters to say, “Wow, just announced that Lyin’ Ted and Kasich are going to collude in order to keep me from getting the Republican nomination. DESPERATION!”
While most analysts don’t use the term desperate, they do point out that the only real hope either of the trailing candidates have is to deny “The Donald” a first round convention victory. Their thinking is that if they can get past that initial vote, the freed delegates will turn away from Trump to choose one of them as a more electable candidate.
While the theory behind this alliance may seem valid, it immediately ran into some serious practical problems. First, the on-the-ground campaign staffers in each state lamented the decision as unacceptable. Many have been working for their particular candidate for months, and resent being told to abandon their efforts.
As Kasich moved to close down his campaign offices in Indiana and cancel scheduled events, much grumbling was heard from his erstwhile supporters. Moreover, a large number of political pundits quickly pointed out that this is a case of “too little too late.”
Even foreign analysts could see the chinks in this late defense, as Jeb Lund of the British paper The Guardian points out. He opines, “Kasich will enter the Republican national convention a distant third, and Cruz will come in second. Both will then have to argue that they have some right to ignore the desires of everyone who voted for the first-place candidate.”
The greater issue is how such “insider moves” are viewed by an increasingly alienated and cynical electorate. As one Trump supporter smartly pointed out about this type of ploy, “…reminds people about everything they hate about politics.”
By mid-week a number of observers were pointing out how the stated alliance was falling apart, if it every really got any footing. Vanity Fair quoted Kasich as stating at a campaign stop on Tuesday, “I’ve never told them not to vote for me; they should vote for me.”
Trump jumped on the breach, using his social media account to respond yet again. He played to his core by noting, “Kasich (is) a ‘typical politician – can’t make a deal work’.”
After the sweep by the Republican front-runner in Tuesday’s east coast primaries, the failing alliance seemed somewhat irrelevant, as Trump became, in the minds of many, the presumptive candidate.
The added concern of many Republicans now is that even if Trump does not get the necessary number of delegates before the convention (and especially if because of such dubious “political shenanigans”), denying him the victory would alienate a large part of potential voters, nearly assuring a Democratic win in November.
Are there more tricks and ploys up the sleeves of Cruz and Kasich? If so, at this point they will most likely prove as ineffective as this short-lived alliance.