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Who got the better of the Cruz-Kasich deal?

April 24th, 2016, 11:47pm by Sam Wang


The main news this week is probably Tuesday’s primaries, when Trump may come close to sweeping Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. But what to make of today’s bargain between Team Kasich and Team Cruz?

I gotta say, this looks like a suboptimal deal for Kasich. Based on polls, three states clearly show evidence for a divided-field effect: Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Indiana. Some poll medians:

State Trump Cruz Kasich
Pennsylvania 45.5% 26.0% 23.5%
Maryland 43.0% 24.0% 27.0%
Indiana 40.0% 33.0% 20.0%

Certainly this deal could turn the tables in Indiana, an important state for Trump. But I have some questions:

(1) Why were Pennsylvania and Maryland left out of this deal? In a one-on-one match against Trump, Cruz might have a slightly better shot in Pennsylvania, and Kasich might have a better shot in Maryland. Is it too late to do anything about those two states? Or were the two candidates unable to agree on who should withdraw?

(2) Why would Cruz give up Oregon (May 17th) and New Mexico (June 7th)? These seem like odd choices, since Cruz is probably stronger than Kasich in both states – at least based on imputations that I published here recently. If a survey comes out showing Cruz stronger than Kasich in either state, surely Team Cruz would be tempted to renege on the deal.

Perhaps more important from an anti-Trump standpoint, Oregon and New Mexico are proportional states. Withdrawing from either will have hardly any effect on Trump’s delegates. It’s basically rearranging the Kasich/Cruz total. Hmmm..maybe that’s a big part of the deal: a barter of delegates.

An anti-Trump deal like this would have been more effective a few weeks ago. Now, it looks a bit too late. Other interpretations?

There is some chance by flipping Indiana, this maneuver could help hold Donald Trump below 1,237 delegates for a pledged majority. But it seems to me that if he is a handful of delegates below that threshold, his campaign could find some way to make up the difference from the 140 or so uncommitted delegates remaining.

Tags: 2016 Election · President

11 Comments so far ↓

  • Jim

    It’s odd that Kasich giving up Indiana which borders Ohio, and Cruz cedes NM and OR that border the heartland states.

    Why does Cruz do well in the heartland states? The google trend model was a fascinating idea. Can a similar model being constructed to do some inference on why the Mississippi river divide?

  • Commentor27

    My Twitter feed is telling me that Kasich is telling his supporters in Indiana to vote for him, so its unclear whether they actually will/can pull this off.

  • Sean Patrick Santos

    I think that Kasich wanted to flat-out give Cruz a bump in Indiana to stop Trump, but that given his prior public refusal to drop out of any state races just to stop Trump, he couldn’t change course now without losing face. Oregon and New Mexico were basically given up to Kasich because Cruz wasn’t going to give up a state that would actually matter, but Kasich needed some kind of justification for the deal other than desperation to fight Trump.

  • bks

    To my reading it’s the underpants gnome algorithm:
    1. Stop Trump in Indiana
    2. ?
    3. Contested convention.

  • Amitabh Lath

    The path for Kasich, such as it is, does not change with a couple of dozen (or even a hundred) more delegates. He will not have anything near a plurality of votes or delegates; he will not have won any state but Ohio. His one slim chance depends on Trump not having an outright majority of delegates.

    That being said, I doubt this sort of top level dealing affecting the votes. Maybe a small fraction of the undecided voters take note that Candidate A is having a rally while Candidate B has no more ads on the radio. And an even smaller fraction make up their minds based on that.

  • Bill

    I agree its sub optimal for Kasich, but the reality is its all sub optimal for him, there is no path to the nomination. If he wants name recognition for 2020, the VP slot with Cruz is the ideal way to go, which is what this seems to be to me.

  • Joseph

    This is a Hail Mary pass if there ever was one. Mr. Trump is correct to see this as an act of desperation.

    Problem is, the Repbulicans may find more people voting for “none of the above” or just staying home. Which is very destructive for down-ticket Republican candidates.

    • LondonBob

      Act of desperation, Indiana and California polls show the game is over. More likely to irritate voters and shift some to Trump where he was second choice. Some but not enough crossover between Kasich, on Trump’s left, and Cruz, on his right.
      Trump increasingly polling around 50 and above now anyway.

  • Mark F.

    Kasich should suspend campaign in exchange for VP slot. That might work.

  • Frank

    Yeah, I predict this is going to backfire badly. For example, I could see many Cruz voters stubbornly still voting for him despite being told to vote for Kasich. And maybe Kasich voters would rather refrain from voting at all if encouraged to vote for Cruz in their state. Meanwhile, Trump will use this news as further evidence that the establishment is out to get him, which will help further anger and rally his supporters in these states.

    Most American voters just do not seem savvy or willing enough to engage in such strategic style voting en masse.