Ted Cruz and John Kasich went public on Sunday with a plan to ostensibly divvy up three of the remaining states on the Republican calendar—Indiana to Cruz; Oregon and New Mexico to Kasich—in the latest last-ditch effort to block Donald Trump from the nomination. The plan is delusional and deficient, sure, but at least it was better than nothing given the importance of next week’s Indiana primary in the overall convention math. So let’s check in on how the first full day of the unlikely quasi-alliance played out on the trail, shall we?
So Much for Tactical Voting
At a campaign stop in Philadelphia on Monday morning, Kasich illustrated the clear limits of a plan theoretically designed to allow each man to compete against Trump in one-on-one contests in their chosen state or states. “I’ve never told ‘em not to vote for me,” the Ohio governor said of his Indiana supporters. “They ought to vote for me. But I’m not over there campaigning and spending resources.” Kasich added in reference to the much-hyped pact, “I don’t see this as any big deal.” Hmm, well that’s not a good start. Care to weigh in, Team Ted? “We’ll never tell voters who to vote for,” read one suggested talking point the Cruz campaign provided to surrogates, which was obtained by the New York Times. “We’re simply letting folks know where we will be focusing our time and resources.”
And Staying Out of Each Other’s Way
OK, so no tactical voting, but surely the state(s) each man has suggested he has ceded to the other are now off-limits. Right? Wrong. Kasich is slated to visit Indianapolis on Tuesday for a fundraiser, and he also still has plans to meet with a number of Indiana Republicans, including Gov. Mike Pence, who has not yet endorsed a candidate in the GOP field. Cruz doesn’t have any trips to Oregon or New Mexico currently on his public schedule, but clearly if the Texan decides he needs to pay a visit to New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez ahead of her state’s June 7 primary, Kasich won’t have grounds to complain.
And Focusing Only on Trump
So the campaigns aren’t encouraging tactical voting, and they’re not even staying out of each other’s way as much as you would think. But certainly their allies aren’t spending money attacking the other when they could instead be spending that same cash going after Trump, right? Right?! Wrong again. The Washington Post reports that the pro-Cruz super PAC Trusted Leadership says it will continue broadcasting an anti-Kasich ad in Indiana ahead of the primary. While it’s only one ad buy, it’s still remarkable given the most obvious reason the campaigns went public with their plan was so they could communicate it to their technically independent super PACs without running afoul of Federal Election Commission laws. (The public campaign memo is a time-tested way for campaigns to coordinate with their aligned outside groups without officially “coordinating.”)
In short, this isn’t an alliance, or even a nonaggression pact. It’s the two candidates doing more or less what they would have done anyway—which, if history is any guide, will be losing to Trump.