March 16, 2016
Ted Cruz wants John Kasich to get out of his way. Completely understandable. The odds of Kasich’s presence making it harder for Donald Trump to get to 1237 delegates are debatable. The advantages to Cruz in going head-to-head with Trump are not.
The Republican establishment isn’t interested in promoting Ted Cruz, they are interested in preventing Donald Trump. Ted Cruz isn’t interested in stopping Donald Trump, he’s interested in promoting Ted Cruz.
Cruz can’t get the nomination without stopping Trump. If Cruz gets the nomination, the establishment will have stopped Trump. So, nominee Cruz is theoretically good for both parties.
As we know, establishmentarians like Lindsey Graham think Cruz is only a minor upgrade over Trump, so you can see why they wouldn’t pressure Kasich to make way for Ted, until they absolutely had to.
Isn’t that now? Trump has more than half of the delegates he needs to clinch the nomination. Also, let’s not kid ourselves. If Trump winds up with 1180 delegates, they aren’t taking the nomination away from him.
If Cruz can get close enough to add Rubio’s 170 delegates, plus a few of the GOP’s version of super delegates and have that add to 1237, it’s saleable as a legitimate solution. He makes Rubio the Veep nominee, and everyone lives happily ever after.
Not all Trumpists turn out in November, especially those who haven’t voted before/regularly, but the ticket could at least put up a good fight against a still widely unpopular and distrusted Hillary Clinton.
Cruz can see this scenario, and he’s openly lobbying for Kasich to take a hike so that he can pursue it. He’s exactly right that no other Trump alternate has as plausible a path.
Even if things go as well as imaginably possible for Kasich, he’s unlikely to clear 600 delegates. He would need to create a scenario where the person entering the convention with the third most delegates wins the nomination.
It’s not impossible, but it would require Kasich doing better than almost anyone expects in the remaining primaries. He would then need the messiest convention in several generations to wind up going his way.
Cruz has a better chance of getting nominated than Kasich. No question about it. But Kasich has a better chance of getting nominated by staying in than dropping out. You might think it’s 3%, maybe 5%, maybe 0.005%. Either way, it’s more than if he’s not in the contest.
Kasich is 63, and was first elected to Congress in 1982. This is as good a shot as he’s going to have. Perhaps the party nominates Trump or Cruz, Hillary beats the GOP candidate soundly, and Republicans decide they need a Kasich-style candidate in 2020. Lotta ifs.
If he only won his home state in 2016, that Kasich-style candidate won’t be Kasich. If 2020 is a return to Republican normalcy, it means picking the runner-up from last time. He only qualifies for that if he wins some states after Ohio.
Plus Kasich is absurdly stubborn. If he wasn’t he wouldn’t have racked up well over 20 losses waiting for the race to get back to Ohio. He’s not going anywhere.
If Cruz would like to pressure him to get out, if he would like others to pressure him to get out, there is only one solution.
Cruz didn’t win Missouri. He didn’t win Illinois. He didn’t win anywhere on March 15. His team blames this on Kasich’s existence, but that’s a bit of a stretch. We know Trump easily wins Florida in a head-to-head with Ted.
The Donald finished 20 points ahead of Cruz in Ohio. Unless you want to convince me a minimum of 75% of Kasich’s support would have gone to Cruz, Trump would have won that one too.
NOTE: You can’t convince me. Kasich got a bunch of Democrat and Independent votes that may have wound up with Bernie, Hillary, or nowhere, but not with Cruz.
In a two person race, Donald Trump would have won the two most important states. Ohio and Florida are the two GOP-leaning swing states they absolutely need to put back in their column to have a chance in November.
He beat Cruz by almost 10 points in Illinois. Again, a stretch to say Ted wins the head-to-head match there either. At a minimum, Trump wins the delegates from congressional districts in and around Chicago. He probably wins the state.
Cruz would have won North Carolina (very narrowly) and Missouri by a few points in a two-person contest. Great. He would have won two states that a few months ago we would have considered must wins for a Nominee Cruz.
His bigger problem in both states was Rubio, and that difficulty is now removed. Some Kasich voters would shift to Cruz, but not all. Polling in Florida indicated Kasich supporters were equally split between Trump, Cruz, and Rubio as a backup.
You can certainly argue having Kasich around makes it much tougher for Cruz to win Pennsylvania. He makes it way harder for Cruz to win Wisconsin. But we don’t know yet what would happen there in a two-way contest. Trump might win anyway.
If Cruz wants to convince people Kasich is preventing Cruz from beating Trump instead of preventing Trump from getting 1237 delegates, he needs to beat Trump in Arizona, even if Kasich is in the way.
Arizona Republicans are fairly conservative. John McCain constantly worries about primary challenges from candidates with Cruz-like views. Trump has the endorsement of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, something he constantly brags about. It’s not an easy fight.
Trump is the favorite. But if you can’t beat him in Arizona with Kasich on your back, you won’t beat him in Maryland or Oregon without him in the way.
As long as Cruz was splitting the evening with Trump, he could give his victory speech and talk about how many times he’d defeated Donald Trump.
But after losing five times (provisionally, he hasn’t officially lost Missouri yet), you can’t give a victory speech. It’s a Rubio speech, and we know how that ended. Saying you beat Trump nine times is less impressive when you’ve contested almost 30 elections.
Win Arizona (and Utah, where Cruz is a strong favorite) first, worry about Kasich second.