The campaigns of Ted Cruz and John Kasich are pushing further in their effort to deny Donald Trump a majority of delegates—and New Mexico is a key part of the plan.
In a statement sent to media, Kasich’s chief strategist John Weaver said the campaign will not campaign in Indiana. Instead, they will cede the state Cruz. Meanwhile, the Cruz campaign will sit out from campaigning in Oregon and New Mexico, deferring to Kasich in those two states.
Weaver called New Mexico and Oregon “structurally similar to the Northeast politically, where Gov. Kasich is performing well.”
Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe sent a similar statement about the unusual arrangement.
“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.”
This is the most open and apparent way that the campaigns of Cruz and Kasich are showing that their ultimate goal is as much to stop Trump from winning the nomination as it is to win the nomination themselves. It can be seen as a part—a massive part—of the so-called “Never Trump” movement by some Republicans.
The two campaigns say they will compete against each other in every other remaining state.
Neither Cruz nor Kasich have any chance of getting a majority of delegates that would allow them to win on the first ballot in this summer’s Republican convention.
Trump, in his typical fashion, responded on Twitter. He said they “are going to collude in order to keep me from getting the Republican nomination.”
A statement from Trump echoed his tweeted sentiments.
“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 wrote. “They are mathematically dead and this act only shows, as puppets of donors and special interests, how truly weak they and their campaigns are.”
The Republican Party of New Mexico weighed in Monday afternoon and touted the increased importance of the primary, though not Trump’s criticism.
“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.”
Of course, the New Mexico vote may not end up mattering; New Mexico votes on June 7, the very last day that states vote in primaries.
The effort to stop Trump from getting the Republican nomination comes from those in the party who fear that a Trump nomination would result in a Democratic landslide, which would impact down-ballot races for Republicans.
Trump trails Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, by 9 percentage points in national polling. He trails Sanders by 14 percentage points. Cruz trails Clinton by 5 percentage points and Sanders by 13 percentage points. Kasich leads Clinton by 3.6 percentage points.
All numbers are from the Pollster.com model; the most recent polls show better numbers for the Democratic candidates, including with Clinton leading Kasich.
This isn’t the first time one Republican campaign asked supporters to cast ballots for another candidate to stop Trump. Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio asked voters to cast ballots for Kasich in Ohio. Kasich is the governor of Ohio.
Kasich won that state, his only victory of this year’s Republican primaries.
At the same time, Kasich’s campaign did not ask supporters to back Rubio in Florida.
“We were going to win in Ohio without his help, just as he’s going to lose in Florida without ours,” Kasich campaign spokesman Rob Nichols said at the time.
Correction: This piece originally said the campaigns were asking their supporters to vote for the other candidate. The campaigns are not explicitly saying this, but instead saying they will not campaign in these states in an agreement with the other campaign.
Update: Added comment from the Republican Party of New Mexico.