Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will no longer compete for New Mexico’s delegates in the Republican presidential race and will instead focus his efforts on delegate-rich Indiana to throw a hurdle into Donald Trump’s path to the GOP nomination, according to reports late Sunday.
Cruz’s decision is part of a deal with John Kasich – the Ohio governor who is also seeking the GOP nomination. In exchange for Cruz abandoning New Mexico and Oregon, Kasich has agreed to cease his campaign in Indiana. Cruz, Trump and Kasich will all be on the ballot in New Mexico’s June 7 GOP primary election, as will other candidates who have since dropped out of the race. So, Cruz can still pick up votes in the state.
In a Journal presidential poll published Feb. 20, Cruz narrowly led all GOP candidates in New Mexico with 25 percent support of likely voters, while Trump had 24 percent. Kasich finished dead last in what was then six-way race with just 4 percent support.
The New Mexico Democratic Party criticized the move.
“This latest move by Republicans shows that they are scrambling to keep Trump out of the nomination spot,” said Joe Kabourek, the party’s executive director. “By pledging to ignore certain states in an effort to combat one of the most damaging candidates we’ve seen in recent history, Republicans are showing a stronger commitment to political gamesmanship than addressing the issues facing the country. Democrats aren’t focused on political games –both of our candidates have committed to competing in every state during the primary season, which shows a real commitment to our democratic system that the Republicans don’t have.”
The state Republican Party’s spokesman encouraged all three candidates to compete.
“The New Mexico Primary is going to be very important this year, and when every delegate matters, we certainly understand that campaigns will have to decide strategically where to compete, and they have every right to do so,” said Republican Party of New Mexico Spokesman Tucker Keene. “That said, we believe that every campaign should fight to win in New Mexico, because whoever our nominee is, the experience of campaigning in and organizing in a swing state like New Mexico would help defeat Hillary Clinton here in November.”
The deal highlights the urgency the anti-Trump forces feel in Indiana, where a strong Cruz performance in the May 3 primary could deny the Manhattan billionaire 57 of the delegates he needs to reach a majority before the Republican National Convention convenes in July. For now, Trump leads in the RealClearPolitics average of Indiana polls by 6.3 percentage points. Cruz is competing hard, however, and supportive super PACs had plans to spend more than $1 million there in an ad buy that included an anti-Kasich spot.
The move allows Kasich to focus on two smaller-market states where his limited campaign cash might have greater impact than it would in Indiana. Kasich ended March with barely more than $1 million on hand.
“To ensure that we nominate a Republican who can unify the Republican Party and win in November, our campaign will focus its time and resources in Indiana and in turn clear the path for Gov. Kasich to compete in Oregon and New Mexico, and we would hope that allies of both campaigns would follow our lead,” Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe said in a statement.
The new Cruz-Kasich pact is an acknowledgment that neither man can overtake Trump in the race, and both know their best shot at preventing Trump from clinching the nomination outright is to team up to block his path and force a contested convention. And it may still be too late: Trump is closing in on the number of delegates he needs to win the nomination.
Trump is not happy. Here’s his full statement (Kasich’s statement follows Trump’s):
DONALD J. TRUMP RESPONSE TO CRUZ AND KASICH CAMPAIGNS
It is sad that two grown politicians have to collude against one person who has only been a politician for ten months in order to try and stop that person from getting the Republican nomination.
Senator Cruz has done very poorly and after his New York performance, which was a total disaster, he is in free fall and as everyone has seen, he does not react well under pressure. Also, approximately 80% of the Republican Party is against him. Governor Kasich, who has only won 1 state out of 41, in other words, he is 1 for 41 and he is not even doing as well as other candidates who could have stubbornly stayed in the race like him but chose not to do so. Marco Rubio, as an example, has more delegates than Kasich and yet suspended his campaign one month ago. Others, likewise, have done much better than Kasich, who would get slaughtered by Hillary Clinton once the negative ads against him begin. 85% of Republican voters are against Kasich.
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. They are mathematically dead and this act only shows, as puppets of donors and special interests, how truly weak they and their campaigns are. I have brought millions of voters into the Republican primary system and have received many millions of votes more than Cruz or Kasich. Additionally, I am far ahead of both candidates with delegates and would be receiving in excess of 60% of the vote except for the fact that there were so many candidates running against me.
Because of me, everyone now sees that the Republican primary system is totally rigged. When two candidates who have no path to victory get together to stop a candidate who is expanding the party by millions of voters, (all of whom will drop out if I am not in the race) it is yet another example of everything that is wrong in Washington and our political system. This horrible act of desperation, from two campaigns who have totally failed, makes me even more determined, for the good of the Republican Party and our country, to prevail!
“Donald Trump doesn’t have the support of a majority of Republicans – not even close, but he currently does have almost half the delegates because he’s benefited from the existing primary system. Our goal is to have an open convention in Cleveland, where we are confident a candidate capable of uniting the Party and winning in November will emerge as the nominee. We believe that will be John Kasich, who is the only candidate who can defeat Secretary Clinton and preserve our GOP majority in the Congress.
Due to the fact that the Indiana primary is winner-take-all statewide and by congressional district, keeping Trump from winning a plurality in Indiana is critical to keeping him under 1237 bound delegates before Cleveland. We are very comfortable with our delegate position in Indiana already, and given the current dynamics of the primary there, we will shift our campaign’s resources West and give the Cruz campaign a clear path in Indiana.
In turn, we will focus our time and resources in New Mexico and Oregon, both areas that are structurally similar to the Northeast politically, where Gov. Kasich is performing well. We would expect independent third-party groups to do the same and honor the commitments made by the Cruz and Kasich campaigns.
We expect to compete with both the Trump and Cruz campaigns in the remaining primary states.”