He's literally correct on both counts, of course. This is open, explicit collusion between two campaigns -- a pact of pure convenience, arising from desperation. Neither Cruz nor (especially) Kasich has any shot at the nomination if Trump clinches 1,237 delegates by June 8, or if the frontrunner seizes a victory on the first ballot in Cleveland. The whole ballgame, therefore, is delegate denial, an endeavor in which Cruz has done almost all of the heavy lifting. Every delegate plucked out of Trump's opening ballot column is a step closer to the multi-ballot convention around which both men's strategies now revolve. If either one felt fully confident that Trump wouldn't hit his marks between now and early June, this belated political marriage of necessity would never have materialized. But new polling trends evidently have both campaigns sufficiently spooked that a precarious alliance has been forged, with an eye toward ensuring that the anti-Trump vote isn't counterproductively diluted, this benefiting their mutual adversary. Speaking of whom, he isn't happy about any of this:
Wow, just announced that Lyin' Ted and Kasich are going to collude in order to keep me from getting the Republican nomination. DESPERATION!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 25, 2016
Lyin' Ted Cruz and 1 for 38 Kasich are unable to beat me on their own so they have to team up (collusion) in a two on one. Shows weakness!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 25, 2016
Shows how weak and desperate Lyin' Ted is when he has to team up with a guy who openly can't stand him and is only 1 win and 38 losses.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 25, 2016
"One-for-38 Kasich" may be the first time Trump has even deigned to assign a derisive nickname to the Ohio governor, so that's progress, at least. (It's also worth recalling that "Lyin' Ted" has a higher honesty rating than Trump, as does everyone else in the race, including habitual liar Hillary Clinton). Trump's entirely predictable ranting and whining aside, the real issue is whether this tactical scheme will work. It might: Trump is an uniquely polarizing frontrunner with historically bad national favorability ratings. With a handful of exceptions, his appeal has been held to below 40 percent of the GOP primary electorate, which accounts for a small fraction of broader population that will choose the next president in November. One relevant instance that informs this analysis is Marco Rubio's March appeal for his Ohio-based supporters to back Kasich in order to help deprive Trump of 66 Buckeye State delegates. The Florida Senator's advice was heeded in droves, padding the governor's eventual comfortable margin of victory. Weeks later, a sizable contingent of Kasich backers in Wisconsin appear to have defected to Cruz when it became clear that the Texan was the only viable anti-Trump game in town. Cruz and Kasich have now signaled explicit preferences to supporters in Indiana, Oregon and New Mexico -- guidance that may also help steer the efforts and resources of various allies and Super PACs.
It might not: As is the case with any political 'trick play,' there is some inherent risk that any unusually calculated machination will trigger a backlash, in this case inflaming and mobilizing Trump followers (who are already convinced the whole system is dirty, thanks to Trump's cynical complaints) and Trump-leaners, while potentially irritating low-engagement supporters of the two participating campaigns. Also, the only clear example of this sort of thing being attempted and succeeding this cycle is the aforementioned Rubio/Kasich gambit, which had the added benefit of nudging a group of voters toward a more natural migration. There's a fair amount of polling data indicating that a certain segment of woud-be Cruz and Kasich voters would actually prefer Trump to the other anti-Donald candidate. All of which is to say that this move is a gamble, which has no guarantee of working out the way it's drawn up on paper. We'll have our first -- and possibly last -- meaningful verdict when the Hoosier State race is called one week from tomorrow. If Cruz consolidates support and pulls of a come-from-behind win, the plan will be vindicated. If not, Trump is the very likely nominee. Either way, Trump's campaign released a bitter, poorly-written statement last night, with the candidate himself echoing the objections before a raucous crowd in Rhode Island this afternoon. Ted Cruz's team is fighting back by fundraising off of reports of thuggery and threats levied against delegates by Trump operatives and followers, further fueling the acrid tone of this ugly primary campaign. Even Kasich's Mr. Nice Guy facade is showing signs of strain, as Trump has now taken to criticizing the "disgusting" manner in which the Ohioan eats food. And in case you're curious, Trump's nickname for himself is "Wonderful Donald." Okay, Wonderful Donald, are these promises? Would you care to, say, sign a loyalty pledge to this effect? What could go wrong?
Trump just pledged to stop tweeting if he’s elected president. “Not presidential.”— Christine Rousselle (@crousselle) April 25, 2016
I'll leave you with this cheery note, which hit home with yours truly upon reading Peggy Noonan's latest column:
Btw, fractured party likely to lose in Nov. It's about salvaging a *chance* to win, mitigating damage, & maintaining dignity/principle.— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) April 25, 2016