The alliance between Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. John Kasich is already seeing fractures, and front-runner Donald Trump is basking in it.
Just hours after the candidates announced a plan to deny Trump from delegates in upcoming nominating contests, Cruz and Kasich are showing that they aren’t fully committed to the idea.
One of the critical states in the agreement is Indiana, a state that votes May 4 and is seen as being a critical contest to keep Trump from winning the necessary 1,237 delegates. Cruz and Kasich agreed that Kasich would not compete there and cede the state to Cruz.
But at a diner in Philadelphia Monday morning, Kasich said he wouldn’t direct his voters to support Cruz in the Hoosier State.
“I've never told them not to vote for me. They ought to vote for me, but I’m not over there campaigning and spending resources,” Kasich said. The Ohio governor will still be on the ballot in Indiana.
It is becoming apparent that this is an agreement between the two campaigns to hold their fire against each other in just three states - and a directive for the outside groups backing them to do the same.
Kasich said the purpose of the agreement is not to help the other get elected but to better allocate resources to ensure an open convention.
“But look, this is a matter of resources and, you know, we're running a national campaign and we want to apply our resources where we think they can be used most effectively and it’s all designed to stop Hillary Clinton from becoming president,” he said.
An animated Donald Trump, who says the two rivals are colluding to keep him from the nomination, made fun of their agreement while also calling the system "rigged" and "fixed."
"Actually I was happy because it shows how weak they are. It shows how pathetic they are," Trump said at his rally in Rhode Island. "Honestly, it shows such total weakness, and it's pathetic, when two longtime insider politicians, establishment guys whether you like it or not, have to collude, have to get together, to try and beat a guy that really speaks what the people want."
While Cruz was more optimistic about the agreement with Kasich - because he is in second place and believes that he has a better shot of winning the hearts and votes of delegates in Cleveland - he wouldn’t throw his support behind Kasich in Oregon and New Mexico, two states where Cruz vowed to clear the way for Kasich. But like Kasich he also said the agreement was about resources.
“Well listen this is a nationwide campaign and we’re making a decision where to focus our time, energy and resources. We are now focused very, very heavily on the state of Indiana,” Cruz said. “It is significant that John Kasich is pulling out of Indiana and allowing us to go directly head to head with Donald Trump.”
"How do you give a guy (the nomination) who's millions of votes behind Trump, who's 5-or-600 delegates behind Trump?" Trump added, speaking of Cruz.
After criticizing how Kasich eats pancakes, Trump knocked him for running a distant third. "You can't give it to Kasich because you can't give it to a guy who's one and 50," he said, referring to the number of states he's won.
The Democratic National Convention also injected itself into the interparty fight. Spokesman Mark Paustenbach wrote in a statement, "Wow, that didn’t take long. Cruz and Kasich’s desperate attempt to stay relevant – despite the fact they mathematically have no chance of winning the nomination without plunging their party into further chaos – has already fallen apart. The GOP is still in denial. Trump hasn’t taken over the party— their leadership over the years has promoted the divisive policies that allowed Trump to flourish.”