Team Kasich: We've already locked up more than half of Indiana's 57 delegates

“Locked up” in the sense that more than half the delegation will be loyal to Kasich, that is, not “locked up” in the sense that Kasich is going to win the primary in two weeks. As noted this morning, Indiana will be crucial in determining whether Trump clinches the nomination before the convention or not. Thirty delegates will be awarded to the statewide winner and another 27 will be awarded to the winners of the state’s nine congressional districts (three delegates per district, of course). If Cruz were to sweep, that’s 57 delegates that would be bound to him and not Trump on the first ballot, which may well be the difference between whether Trump gets to 1,237 or not. On the second ballot those 57 would be free to vote however they like. Normally that means good things for Cruz given how much success he’s had in getting his loyalists elected to delegate slots in various states so far.

Not this time, though — if you believe the Kasich campaign.

Kasich’s campaign said it has secured the support of a majority of Indiana’s 57 delegates to the Republican National Convention, where their personal preference might ultimately decide the party’s presidential nominee…

IndyStar attempted to survey all 57 delegates. Many gave guarded responses, so the results were inconclusive. But Kasich’s claim seems plausible, given the number of people who expressed their support for him and those who would likely be ideologically aligned with him…

Trump supporters were harder to find. Of the 57 delegates, only two said they supported Trump over other candidates…

While many of those delegates told IndyStar they hadn’t decided whom they would support, most said they would make their decision based on one main factor: Who has the best chance of beating the Democratic nominee and winning back the White House?

If you don’t know why most of Indiana’s delegates would rather not say who they’re supporting, it might have to do with the fact that those who’ve admitted publicly that they’re not backing Trump are, of course, receiving threats from crazed Trump fans. It’s no secret that many of Indiana’s delegates aren’t well disposed to Trump, though. What is surprising is the possibility that Kasich has outmaneuvered Cruz at the delegate level, where he’s cleaned up nationally. Is Kasich’s team telling the truth or not? And even if they are, how rigid is the support of the delegates they’ve “won” so far? Ed raised the possibility a few days ago that Gov. Mike Pence might endorse Cruz before the primary and start working the phones for him to convince Indiana’s delegates to join him on the Cruz crew. And Kasich may be overselling exactly how many delegates have pledged themselves to him already. David Drucker of the Examiner talked to his sources in Indiana last week and they were skeptical that he’d won big:

The Ohio governor’s top delegate strategist declined to offer names of Kasich delegates or say exactly how many delegates are his among the delegation of 57. And, Republican insiders who have monitored the process and observed delegate elections first-hand this past week were skeptical of Kasich’s rosy projection.

“I was in the room and can say with certainty there was no discussion of who people supported as to whether a delegate would or would not be on the slate. I get them trying to build a narrative, but there isn’t much basis,” an Indiana Republican who is neutral in the primary said Saturday, on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly.

It would be very surprising if Kasich’s essentially shoestring operation had out-organized Cruz in an important red state, but anything’s possible. In fact, let’s say Kasich’s telling the truth. What are the strategic consequences of him vacuuming up a bunch of Indiana’s delegates? There are two big ones, I think, starting with the fact that it obviously makes Cruz’s job of getting to 1,237 on the second ballot harder. It’s better, of course, for Cruz fans that these delegates are leaning towards Kasich on the second ballot than to Trump, since the weaker Trump’s support looks on the second ballot, the harder it’ll be for him to claw back some votes and move back into contention for the nomination on subsequent ballots. And it may also be that these delegates, although nominally pro-Kasich, are anti-Trump above all else and will end up breaking for Cruz on the second ballot if doing so would put him over the top for 1,237. But then again, they might not — and if Cruz doesn’t clinch on the second ballot then he’ll run the risk of his momentum stalling on the third ballot or later if he can’t seal the deal and clinch a majority.

The other bad consequence for Cruz in Kasich piling up delegates is the threat that some of these people will land on the Rules Committee and will defeat any measures there designed to bar Kasich from the nomination. I think the risk of that is low given how many members of the Committee will be loyalists for Trump and Cruz; if they vote in accordance with the wishes of their candidates, they’ll pass a rule that says Kasich and anyone else who failed to win a majority of delegates in eight states is barred from being considered as nominee. But that’s no sure thing: The more likely it seems that it’ll take multiple ballots to choose a nominee, the more likely it is that some delegates, possibly including Trump’s and Cruz’s delegates, will want to keep their options open on a dark-horse nominee in later rounds of balloting. In fact, if it looks like Trump is destined to be thwarted in Cleveland, some of his delegates may decide to screw Cruz by refusing to vote for a rule that would limit the universe of possible nominees to Trump and Cruz, knowing that leaving open the possibility of nominating someone like Kasich might lead to their nemesis Cruz being defeated on a third, fourth, or fifth ballot. For that reason, every delegate Cruz can woo away from Trump and Kasich is important. He needs to win early at the convention, before people start considering outside-the-box possibilities. The more delegates he piles up before the proceedings begin, the more likely it is that he will.

Via the Free Beacon, here’s Cruz’s spokesman paying tribute to the “insufferable John Kasich.”

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