To Stop Trump, Rivals Must Coordinate

Ted Cruz and John Kasich must put an end to their dog-eat-dog contest and start working together.

Republican governor John Kasich of Ohio speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, March 4
Republican governor John Kasich of Ohio speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, March 4 (Gage Skidmore)

Bloomberg View columnist Jonathan Bernstein is growing a little exasperated about John Kasich’s presidential campaign and rightly so.

Not only has the Ohio governor refused to drop out of the Republican contest despite not winning a single state until Tuesday (his own); Bernstein writes that he is now campaigning in Utah, a state Ted Cruz could win and perhaps must win if the two are to deny Donald Trump a majority of the delegates.

That is the declared rationale of Kasich’s candidacy: stop the New York businessman winning a majority of the delegates and block him at the convention, to be held in Ohio in July.

If that is indeed what Kasich is trying to do, he should take another hard look at his strategy.

Splitting the vote

Up until Tuesday, he split the center-right vote with Marco Rubio to the detriment of both. If one of them had dropped out early, the other could probably have accumulated more delegates under rules that benefit the highest vote-getter in each state.

Rubio folded his campaign after losing his home state, Florida, allowing moderately conservative voters to coalesce around Kasich. But he can still hurt Cruz.

FiveThirtyEight believes the property tycoon is 96 percent of the way to the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the nomination.

Cruz is about halfway there and still has a chance of overtaking Trump in the delegate count. It’s an extremely slim one, though, so what Cruz and Kasich should rather do — if they are serious about saving the Republican Party from the calamity a Trump nomination would be — is coordinate: tell their supporters to vote for whichever man is most likely to defeat Trump in a given state. Polls suggest either one of them would best Trump in a one-on-one contest.

Kasich’s decision to campaign in Utah suggests it’s still a dog-eat-dog race and that can only help Trump.

Utah, where Republican voters caucus next week, has a 50-percent winner-takes-all trigger for its forty delegates. If Kasich wants a contested convention, Bernstein point out, he needs Cruz to win those delegates.

If he denies Cruz a victory, and if Cruz were to do the same to Kasich in less conservative states, then Trump really couldn’t have asked for better opponents.

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