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The Failed Cruz-Kasich Pact: Donald Trump and GOP Desperation

“As far as I am concerned it’s over.”

–Donald Trump, Apr 26, 2016

Having Trump as a candidate for the GOP presidential run may look bad. Having a pact against him within the Republican movement designed to quash his chances to get the nomination looks even worse. It reeks of backroom deals, frustrated officials and failed prospects.

Most of all, it is the very sort of thing that might add fuel to the fire of Trump’s campaign, which was emboldened by Tuesday’s victories in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Maryland and Delaware. Trump edges ever closer to the 1,237 delegates needed for a first-ballot triumph at the July convention. Other GOP contenders continued to look on with worry

Senator Ted Cruz and Governor John Kasich of Ohio were clearly not thinking things through when they got together to announce the latest ploy from the GOP strategy room. For one, Cruz was never one to take Kasich too seriously, seeing himself as the naturally anointed, and feeling that Kasich’s stubbornness simply made the case against Trump harder to make. Kasich, in turn, has essentially been pushing the line that Cruz cannot cut the American political mustard. If Hillary Clinton is to be beaten, he is the man to do it.

The announcement by the two rivals and presidential contenders took place on Sunday, ahead of the deep losses both would experience on Tuesday. In the loose alliance, the two candidates agreed to what would effectively mount to ceding the forthcoming primaries to each other, vacating ground for a greater swipe at the Trump base.

This would entail Kasich standing down in Indiana’s primary on May 3, something that would give Cruz a better chance, or so it is thought, of moving up on Trump. Such an approach has the hallmarks of historical folly, not to mention self-destruction.

“John Kasich,” announced Cruz, “has decided to pull out of Indiana to give us a head-to-head contest with Donald Trump.” This would enable him to focus on the evangelical population and other elements more sympathetic with his line. Cruz, in turn, would avoid Oregon and New Mexico, allowing Kasich a free hand. The idiocy of this arrangement assumes that voters will be directed, mutely following their master’s instructions.

Kasich seemed to be hallucinating at one point over the nature of the arrangement, suggesting that voters should not take the agreement as having much worth. As a not so gentlemanly agreement, it did not have the legs. “I don’t see this,” he flippantly remarked, “an any big deal.”

The extent of his lack of understanding could be gauged by the fact that he still, despite the arrangements, wished for the good people of Indiana to vote for him, a sentiment which can only be read at this point as voting for anybody but Trump. “I’ve never told [supporters] not to vote for me. They ought to vote for me.”

This is all well and good, but for the fact that the Kasich campaign seems riddled with established ineptitude. In what can only be regarded as suicidal oversight, he will be starting in greater arrears in Oregon without his photo and biography in official voter pamphlets mailed to 1.8 million households in the state. According to the secretary of state’s office, Kasich was sent a letter on Jan. 12 explaining that he was qualified to appear on the Oregon ballot, and that he should supply them with a statement to appear on the Voter’s Pamphlet. “We never heard anything from his campaign,” explained Molly Woon, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins.

Cruz, in turn, is banking heavily on an Indiana vote that can only trim the delegate count from the Trump wagon of thundering doom. (This ignores the Real Clear Politics poll figures which show Trump leading Cruz as matters stand a comfortable 39 percent to 33 percent.) Even if Trump falls short of the 1,237 delegates, it will look a damn side bloody to deny him in what will assuredly kill off any Republican chances.

Such daft manoeuvring from these withered contenders has also had the unsettling, even unthinkable effect of making Trump sound sensible. Such collaboration, he has argued, smacks of collusion, and rather sordid collusion at that. In some industries, he observed, it would be illegal.

Despite being deeply bound to establishment principles (the business of America is business), Trump can only respond to such strategies with satisfaction by making himself sound like the outsider battling the Washington boardroom.

“Wow,” tweeted Trump, “just announced that Lyin’ Ted and Kasich are going to collude in order to keep me from getting the Republican nomination. DESPERATION.” And desperation it is, with neither one of the rivals having a mathematical prospect of getting the required delegates. The only pathway now is pure spoliation, harassment and tears.

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Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

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