Yesterday morning, Ted Cruz boasted that his new agreement with John Kasich was “big news.” Around the same time, John Kasich assured reporters that his new agreement with Ted Cruz was “no big deal.” The competing messages were the first sign that this Republican marriage of convenience was off to a rough start.
At least in theory, the plan, if executed effectively, could work to the candidates’ benefit. As we discussed yesterday, the point is to consolidate the anti-Trump vote in specific states to increase the odds of a contested convention: Cruz is stronger in Indiana, so Kasich would agree pull back there, and Kasich is stronger in Oregon and New Mexico, so Cruz would give up competing in these states.
But as MSNBC’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reported, it only took hours before the alliance started to fray.
[A]t a diner in Philadelphia Monday morning, Kasich said he wouldn’t direct his voters to support Cruz in the Hoosier State – a critical decision that could have the most weight in the state.“I’ve never told them not to vote for me. They ought to vote for me, but I’m not over there campaigning and spending resources,” Kasich said. The Ohio governor will still be on the ballot in Indiana.It is becoming apparent that this is an agreement between the two campaigns to hold their fire against each other in just three states – and a directive for the outside groups backing them to do the same.
This isn’t to say a non-aggression pact is meaningless, but the Cruz-Kasich alliance was supposed to advance a larger goal: undermining Trump before it’s too late. It took less than half a day, however, for Kasich to say his supporters in Indiana should most definitely vote for him, which is pretty much the opposite of the message he was supposed to make after striking a deal with Cruz. Indeed, Kasich’s message also contradicted what his campaign co-chair in Indiana told local media yesterday morning.
And sure enough, a Cruz super PAC said soon after that it would leave an anti-Kasich television ad on the air.
There was already ample discussion about whether the Cruz-Kasich agreement was hatched too late to make a significant difference, but as yesterday came to a close, the discussion had turned – to whether or not a Cruz-Kasich agreement still existed in any meaningful form.
The “Never Trump” forces felt a renewed sense of hope 24 hours ago. Unfortunately for them, their optimism appears to have been premature.