News that Republican presidential candidates Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, plan to collaborate with each other's campaigns in an effort to bring down their rival Donald Trump has raised eyebrows. And while Trump predictably reacted with derision and anger, others have been left to wonder: Could this alliance truly succeeded?
In response to the announcement, Trump tweeted:
"Wow, just announced that Lyin' Ted and Kasich are going to collude in order to keep me from getting the Republican nomination. DESPERATION!"
And many commentators on the Left and Right alike have agreed that the move reeks of desperation. Trump's favorability and polling averages tanked in March due to a series of campaign missteps, but he has regained a solid lead over Cruz and Kasich throughout April. As Nate Silver, the founder and editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight, notes, the move by Kasich's and Cruz's campaigns could backfire if many Republican voters see Trump as being bullied by the party.
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And yet, the two campaigns needed to do something. After the April 19 New York primary, Cruz was mathematically eliminated from reaching 1,237 delegates before the July convention; he could only become the GOP nominee on a second or third-ballot vote. Kasich has no chance either.
But they could still potentially stop Trump from reaching the necessary 1,237 delegates before the convention and force a second-ballot vote. An open convention would be a game-changing move: While delegates are bound to vote for who won their state's primary in the first ballot, they are free to vote for whomever they please in the second ballot.
It's no wonder, then, that ensuring an open convention has been an essential part of Cruz's strategy to defeating Trump. While Trump has won the popular vote in many states, Cruz has been wooing convention delegates behind the scenes for quite some time now. And this new alliance with Kasich could be the final piece to the puzzle and help take down Trump once and for all.
While the perks of the alliance are clear for Cruz, the deal also makes financial sense for Kasich's campaign, as CNN notes. If he and Cruz are coordinating to heavily campaign in different states, both campaigns can focus their time, energy and funds accordingly, while Trump is forced to spread his attention more thinly. Cruz and Kasich can thus chip away Trump's delegate lead even as he is slated to win in several soon-to-be-held primaries.
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Does the deal still reek of desperation? Perhaps, but that does not mean it cannot succeed. Because let's face it -- the Republican Party is desperate. Establishment leader after establishment leader has come up and tried to bring Trump down, to no avail. And the numbers speak for themselves: Neither Cruz nor Kasich can win the nomination without an open convention. So what good does it do for them to plow ahead, pretending to be oblivious to the fact that they both need a contested convention if they want even a hope of winning the nomination? It's both more pragmatic, and more strategic, for them to own up to reality and announce a plan -- really, the only plan -- that could actually work.
Will the alliance guarantee Cruz or Kasich the nomination? Perhaps not. But it very likely will succeed in forcing a contested convention and allowing the Republican establishment to pick the candidate of their choosing.
And in one way at least, the alliance has already succeeded: In a campaign cycle that has been rife with mud-slinging and immature Twitter battles -- mostly at the hands of Trump -- Cruz and Kasich's alliance shows that there are still viable Republican candidates who can set their differences aside and do what they feel is best for their party.
In less than one year, Trump has managed to successfully divide the GOP, but Cruz and Kasich's alliance shows that there's still hope for party unity. Whether or not Cruz or Kasich becomes the nominee, it's clear that their ability to put party unity first is a step in the right direction for the GOP as a whole.