Ted Cruz, John Kasich join forces to stop Donald Trump
(CNN) — Ted Cruz and John Kasich are joining forces in a last-ditch effort to deny Donald Trump the Republican presidential nomination.
Within minutes of each other, the pair issued statements saying they will divide their efforts in upcoming contests with Cruz focusing on Indiana and Kasich devoting his efforts to Oregon and New Mexico. The strategy is aimed at blocking Trump from gaining the 1,237 delegates necessary to claim to GOP nomination this summer.
The extraordinary moves reflect the national strength Trump has shown and the inability of Republicans who oppose the New York billionaire to come together to stop him. Dividing up some of the remaining primary states by putting forward one strong option to Trump in each could be enough to take away delegates and curb Trump’s run to the nomination.
Trump is the only candidate who can realistically get a first-ballot victory — there’s no mathematical path for Cruz or Kasich to clinch the nomination heading into the convention.
Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe said in a statement the Texas senator will focus on the May 3 Indiana primary. He called Trump at top of the GOP ticket “a sure disaster.”
He added: “To ensure that we nominate a Republican who can unify the Republican Party and win in November, our campaign will focus its time and resources in Indiana and in turn clear the path for Gov. Kasich to compete in Oregon and New Mexico.”
Kasich’s chief strategist, John Weaver, said in a separate statement: “Due to the fact that the Indiana primary is winner-take-all statewide and by congressional district, keeping Trump from winning a plurality in Indiana is critical to keeping him under 1,237 bound delegates before Cleveland. We are very comfortable with our delegate position in Indiana already, and given the current dynamics of the primary there, we will shift our campaign’s resources West and give the Cruz campaign a clear path in Indiana.”
Trump blasted the arrangement on Twitter.
“Wow, just announced that Lyin’ Ted and Kasich are going to collude in order to keep me from getting the Republican nomination. DESPERATION!” Trump wrote Sunday night.
Trump social media director Dan Scavino also blasted the deal on Twitter. “Two losing politicians-mathematically eliminated from receiving the nomination-trying something NEW! They will FAIL!” he tweeted.
Sunday’s move is also what many in the GOP have urged on for a while — a combined “Never Trump” strategy. Both campaigns have each sought to be the one that denies Trump a first-ballot win at the Republican convention. Each has offered their own rationales for why GOP delegates would then turn to them as the party standard-bearer.
But these strategies by Kasich and Cruz have fallen short as Trump has proved a nearly unstoppable force in the Republican primary season. Kasich has won only his home state of Ohio, more than a month ago, and is far back in the delegate chase.
Cruz has remained a steady second behind Trump, but his victories have been sporadic. His initial strategy to sweep the South with heavy support for evangelical voters fell flat. Cruz has in recent contests focused more on the delegate game, picking off support in individual congressional districts even as he lost statewide in several places.
The two statements were the only public comments Sunday night from the campaigns, and notably only refer to three states — Indiana, New Mexico and Oregon. California, with its treasure trove of delegates, Nebraska and West Virginia are among the states not included.
Weaver, in a tweet, indicated the campaign still plans to compete in other states besides Oregon and New Mexico, but declined to elaborate beyond the statement.
As Trump continues to lead, and especially following his romp in New York last week and expected victories in northeastern states this week, tensions have been mounting, especially for Cruz. According to CNN estimates, Cruz would have to win every available delegate to reach 1,237 on the first ballot, a virtual impossibility.
Cruz has consistently called for Kasich to move aside, touting the fact that only he and Trump have won multiple states and have a way to secure the delegates needed.
“The primary has done the job it’s supposed to do, it has narrowed the field. As we stand here today, there are two people with any plausible path whatsoever to the nomination, me and Donald Trump,” Cruz said Sunday in Terre Haute, Indiana.
An audience member then shouted out, “John Kasich.”
Cruz’s response: “As I said, plausible path.”
CNN’s Betsy Klein contributed to this report