Trump: Gee, this Cruz-Kasich Marvel team-up looks a little desperate

Well … yeah. That’s the point, isn’t it? Under normal circumstances, Ted Cruz and John Kasich wouldn’t get within a mile of each other politically. Cruz has spent his single Senate term as the iconoclast, tilting at leadership every chance he could get, while Kasich has spent the last few years chastising conservatives like Cruz as knee-jerk obstructionists. Suddenly, Cruz has an affinity for established leadership and Kasich for obstruction when it comes to Trump, and it’s pretty clear why:

Donald Trump blasted rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich on Monday for reaching a deal to divide up three state primary contests in an attempt to block the front-runner from winning the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.

The real estate mogul and reality television personality reacted to the unusual agreement by saying it was “sad” that the two fellow Republicans had to team up to in order to try to defeat him.

“Collusion is often illegal in many other industries and yet these two Washington insiders have had to revert to collusion in order to stay alive,” Trump said in a statement. “They are mathematically dead and this act only shows, as puppets of donors and special interests, how truly weak they and their campaigns are.”

Trump, as is his wont, uses hyperbole when it’s probably unnecessary. This isn’t collusion in the law-breaking sense, as politics does not equate to commercial markets. Competitors in politics can and do form alliances for strategic purposes. Just ask Trump and Chris Christie, if you can find the latter, who seems to have gone strangely missing after endorsing Trump while withdrawing from the race. If and when it comes to a contested convention, Trump and his team will certainly look to “collude” on gaining delegates from other candidates by making promises about positions in a future Trump administration. That’s exactly how the parliamentary process of a major-party convention works, and how politics works in general. In fact, one measure of success in politics is the ability to pull together coalitions to accomplish larger projects. Going it alone usually indicates either failure or an overreach of authority.

Still, Trump’s correct about this new Marvel Team-Up and the weakness it shows in both candidates. Trump’s about to win big in tomorrow’s northeastern primaries and strengthen his argument in California, which will decide whether we have a contested convention or a Trump coronation in Cleveland. Cruz has belatedly realized that he can’t stop Trump on his own, and Kasich has belatedly realized that he was hurting Cruz a lot more than Trump. No matter how strategically sound this move might be for both, the fact that they had to team up underscores Trump’s strength, and to some extent validates his claims to be a victim of the process that he has dominated, at least among his followers.

The most interesting aspect of this is the move by Kasich to become a de facto member of the #NeverTrump coalition. Until now, Kasich had kept himself positioned to work with either Cruz or Trump after the nomination, and Trump was careful not to go after Kasich personally. Kasich’s ability to win in Ohio made him an obvious running mate for both Trump and Cruz. Kasich’s decision to choose sides now seems to have removed that possibility from a Trump nomination, and that could be a problem for the GOP.  He might be “1-for-38 Kasich,” but that one is a critical state for Republicans on any potential Electoral College map.