Alliance expanding? Cruz, Kasich reportedly in talks about coordinating in California too

A leftover from yesterday. If you know the delegate math, you know why coordination in California between anti-Trumpers is a fait accompli. Indiana, which Kasich has ceded to Cruz, will award 57 delegates; Oregon and New Mexico, which Cruz has ceded to Kasich, will award 52. That’s 109 in all — 63 fewer than California will award on June 7th. If you want to stop Trump, you’ll need to do it on the coast.

Given the state of the polling lately, nothing short of outright collusion will do it. Trump is at 49 percent in each of the last two surveys of California. That in itself isn’t fatal to Cruz and Kasich since the state is winner-take-all by district; Trump may be winning by enormous margins in some districts but well below 50 in others, which would be ripe for a strategic vote aimed at stopping him. But if he’s already at 49 statewide, there’ll be no margin for error. He’s likely to be north of 40 even in his “weak” areas. Cruz and Kasich, to have any chance, will have to undertake a diligent voter education campaign, region by region within California, aimed at notifying anti-Trumpers whom they should be voting for in each. It’s comparatively easy to do that when one candidate pulls out of a state entirely, as Kasich has done in Indiana (sort of). If you’re a Hoosier and you oppose Trump, you vote Cruz on Tuesday. Simple as that. In California, the two campaigns will need to identify which parts of the state each is stronger in and then somehow get the word out to voters in each area without confusing people. They’ll both be campaigning in California so there’s no easy indicator to look to a la Indiana to tell you whom you should vote for. It’ll be very difficult, I think, to bring enough voters up to speed in each region to give collusion a real chance of working instead of merely moving votes from Cruz to Kasich or vice versa at the margins. Which means Trump is likely to clean up in California, leaving him perilously close to 1,237 if not past it.

In fact, I wonder what’ll happen to the alliance if Cruz ends up losing Indiana to Trump. In theory it could force Cruz and Kasich even closer together: If Trump walks away from IN with a few dozen delegates in his pocket, his chance of clinching outright in California will be solid. Any last chance the two non-Trumps have of forcing a convention will boil down to how well they can organize anti-Trumpers in California. In reality, though, I think Trump winning Indiana could break the last meaningful shreds of resistance among anti-Trumpers. Cruz will soldier on, mainly out of pride, but losing a state he was “supposed” to win will be demoralizing to him. It’ll also prove that the Cruz/Kasich alliance doesn’t work in practice the way it works on paper. I think there’s a fair chance Kasich will throw in the towel before California if Indiana falls to Trump and he looks poised to clinch before the convention. And if that happens, the race is all but over: It’s hard to see Cruz roaring back from 17 points down in CA, which is where he is now statewide, to surprising Trump in enough districts there to make the first ballot in Cleveland interesting.

You would think Kasich would realize that too — if he has even a glimmer of hope left, it depends on Cruz winning Indiana (for starters). Maybe he is realizing it. Yesterday he told reporters that all he agreed to do in his alliance with Cruz is not compete in Indiana. He didn’t agree to ask his voters there to support Cruz; on the contrary, he said, he hoped they’d continue to vote Kasich, which is … nuts, as that’s the whole point of the alliance. If Kasich voters stubbornly stick with him in Indiana, the race could be all but over next week. Today, when Kasich got that question again, his answer was cagier: “I’m not telling people anything in Indiana, because I’m not campaigning in Indiana. I’m not telling voters what to do. Voters are smart enough to figure out what they want to do.” Hint hint: Vote Cruz. Will they listen? Will Californians?

David Strom 7:01 PM on September 24, 2022