Republican operatives have cast doubt on a rather unprecedented pact between Ted Cruz and John Kasich, saying any plan to halt the momentum of GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump should have happened much sooner.
“This should have been done earlier,” GOP strategist and commentator Evan Siegfried told Business Insider on Monday, pointing back to mid-March as the time when a deal could have been most helpful.
“It would help in terms of keeping the delegate number down,” he added. “Trump’s delegate haul would not have been this big.”
The pact between the Cruz and Kasich campaignscalled for Kasich, the Ohio governor, to pull his resources out of Indiana, the next key battleground state. In return, Cruz, a Texas senator, would recede from campaigning in New Mexico and Oregon.
It all serves as an attempt to stop Trump, the GOP frontrunner, from accumulating 1,237delegates, the total needed to secure the Republican nomination ahead of the party’s July convention.
“Yeah, I think it would’ve been,” GOP strategist and frequent Trump critic Rick Wilson told Business Insider, saying an earlier deal could have had a bigger effect.
“It’s woulda, coulda, shoulda.”
The deal between the two campaigns had been discussed for more than a month, The New York Times reported. Kasich’s camp originally approached Cruz’s team, but the Cruz campaign rejected the idea of splitting the remaining states because it would have taken the high-profile primary of New York, as well as other Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states, out of play.
“It’s important, and so they’re doing it,” Wilson said. “They had to do it. There was no other way to survive.”
He added that the deal provided a “sliver of hope” to anti-Trump voters within the Republican Party.
Both Wilson and Siegfried said the pact had the potential to most help Kasich and Cruz with resource allocation, allowing them to present much stronger campaigns in the states on which they have agreed to concentrate.
But both Kasich and Cruz have yet to directly tell supporters to vote for the other candidate in the three states, as the first day of the candidates’ marriage got off to a rough start.
Kasich even said his supporters in Indiana “ought to vote for me” when asked about the deal on Monday at a Philadelphia diner.
“I think that was a verbal slip by Kasich,” Siegfried said. “It probably will be walked back soon. I think the genuine answer to that is he had a gaffe and it’s not a big deal. I think his supporters in Indiana will know that’s their thing, to go vote for Cruz. In Indiana you vote Cruz – in Oregon you vote Kasich.”
But Kasich seemed only to add to the confusion during a Tuesday-morning appearance on NBC’s “Today” show.
“I have laid out a strategy, and I have not told anybody to not vote for me,” Kasich said. “I’m just not there campaigning. You know what? When you don’t campaign in certain areas in any kind of a race, guess what? Your turnout goes down. I don’t tell people how to vote. I am not in that state right now. I will be in other states.”
In recent weeks Trump has railed on the Republican Party’s system for selecting delegates, calling it “rigged.” Since the deal between Kasich and Cruz was announced, he has only increased the volume of his bellows, lambasting both Kasich and Cruz for being what he calls “pathetic.”
And though Siegfried believed Trump’s argument to be “totally invalid,” he said it did play right into Trump’s hand.
“So this helps Trump from the perspective of a ‘look, they’re trying to do all these things’ when in reality it’s not rigged,” he said. “But from a PR standpoint, [the Cruz-Kasich deal] looks weird.”