Donald Trump and Ted Cruz don’t agree on much, but they seem to have come together on one point: John Kasich should get out.
Both Republican presidential candidates have turned up the pressure on Kasich, casting the Ohio governor as a nuisance candidate whose presence in the race is only frustrating their efforts to snag the nomination.
“If I didn’t have Kasich, I automatically win,” Trump claimed Sunday evening in West Allis, Wis.
Even Texas Sen. Cruz, who is second to Trump in the delegate race and eager to whittle the contest down to a two-man battle in the final weeks before the convention, is losing patience with what he describes as Kasich’s “spoiler” bid.
On Monday, Cruz said talk of someone other than him or Trump winning the Republican nomination at a contested convention is “nothing less than a pipe dream.”
The complaints are building ahead of Wisconsin’s primary on Tuesday.
It’s yet another contest that Kasich, who has won only his home state of Ohio, likely has no shot at winning. But Kasich’s out-in-the-open strategy is not to win in the traditional, state-by-state way — but prevent his rivals from clinching the nomination with the requisite 1,237 delegates, in order to trigger a contested convention in Cleveland.
The two candidates with a more plausible path to the nomination – particularly Trump – are signaling the time has come, though, for Kasich to get out.
Trump said Sunday it was unfair for Kasich to continue campaigning. He suggested Kasich follow the lead of former candidates Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush — and quit. He said earlier Sunday he had shared his concerns with Republican National Committee officials at a meeting in Washington this past week.
The Kasich campaign, though, is wearing the complaints as a badge of honor.
Kasich chief strategist John Weaver sent a fundraising email highlighting Trump’s claim that he’d win if Kasich dropped out.
“Talk about a validator for what you and I know to be true – these guys are terrified to face Gov. John Kasich at a convention …” the email said.
As of Monday afternoon, Trump had 736 delegates, Cruz had 463 and Kasich had 143.
For Trump, Kasich’s presence in the race represents one of numerous challenges to his efforts to lock down the nomination before July. While Trump by far has won more states than anybody else, Kasich and Cruz both have helped slow his accumulation of delegates.
Further, Cruz has worked to solidify a backup plan in case the convention truly is contested.
The Washington Examiner reported Monday that the latest battleground is Arizona, a state Trump already won but where Cruz is actively recruiting candidates for delegate slots – who potentially could back Cruz in the event of a floor fight.
This, after Cruz claimed victory at North Dakota’s under-the-radar GOP convention over the weekend. While the 25 delegates selected at that convention are not bound to any candidate, Cruz claimed more of his supporters were elected than anybody else’s.
While Kasich defends his presence in the race, Cruz told Fox News that Kasich at this point is “mathematically eliminated” and right now is only playing the role of “spoiler.”
“A vote for Kasich is a vote for Donald Trump,” Cruz said. “You cannot be the nominee if you lose every state other than your home state.”
Meanwhile, the race in Wisconsin is turning out to be a tough haul for the two primary front-runners. Cruz is leading most GOP polls in the state, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is leading Hillary Clinton in some polls on the Democratic side.
An upset for the front-runners in Wisconsin could be problematic because the next big contest on the primary calendar is delegate-rich New York, which votes April 19. Trump still has a comfortable lead in the Empire State, but Sanders has threatened to close the gap against Clinton on the Democratic side.
In a sign of the tension in that race, Clinton and Sanders announced they’d agreed to debate in New York before the primary, though their campaigns continued debating over when to schedule the face-off.
On the Republican side, Trump’s call for Kasich to bow out came as Republican concerns grew about the prospect of convention chaos if Trump fails to lock up his party’s nomination — or even if he does.
Behind Cruz in the polls in Wisconsin, Trump faces the prospect that a loss on Tuesday there will raise further doubts that he can net the needed delegates, making it far easier for his party to oust him in a floor fight at the convention in Cleveland in July.
Kasich acknowledges he cannot catch up in the delegate race, leaving a contested convention his only path to victory. Still, Kasich suggested that a contested convention would not involve the chaos that party leaders fear.
“Kids will spend less time focusing on Bieber and Kardashian and more time focusing on how we elect presidents,” Kasich told ABC. “It will be so cool.”