(Bloomberg View) — Step right up, folks, to the Ted Cruz-John Kasich game. The aim is to push out the candidate who could win in November in favor of the one who can’t.
Everything else has failed to stop Donald Trump, but the Republicans’ strategy of putting their few remaining eggs in Sen. Cruz’s basket and insulting Gov. Kasich back to the Ohio statehouse is delusional — as is their assertion that a vote for Kasich is a vote for Trump.
Let’s take a look: It’s hard to believe that any politician could be doing worse than Hillary Clinton, who had a net unfavorable rating of minus 13 in a March Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, but Cruz, at minus 18, manages it. Kasich has a net positive 19. Every poll shows Cruz losing to Clinton. As for the nomination, the proposition that Cruz alone could stop Trump is wrong to anyone who reads exit polls, studies current ones or looks at the map.
What’s more, Cruz is the most universally disrespected politician in the Republican Party, which he wears as a badge of honor. And Cruz doesn’t have Trump’s positives, if you can say such a thing about celebrity, a fake everyman persona, disdain, shared by his followers, for policy, and a knack for memorable slogans.
Cruz is a careerist who took the outsider route when his persistent efforts to ingratiate himself with insiders failed. In endorsing him, Jeb Bush had much to say about Washington being broken, but he failed to mention that Cruz was largely responsible for breaking it, forcing senseless government shutdowns, spouting nonsense during his preening filibusters, and adding significantly to the bitter enmity on Capitol Hill — and that’s on his side of the aisle. Trump’s sobriquet of “Lyin’ Ted” doesn’t sound all that outlandish to many of those who tried to work with the Texas senator on Capitol Hill.
Cruz’s conduct worked to make him famous but, until panic set in, no one thought it would work to make him the nominee, much less president. The trend so far when someone gets out is that many of those votes go to Trump. A recent Quinnipiac poll shows that were Kasich to drop out today, more than half of his vote would go to the front-runner.
Although Kasich is being hammered for continuing to exist, he has a good case for staying in: He governs Ohio, which no Republican has won the White House without, was re-elected there with record numbers, and has high approval ratings for turning the deficit into a surplus and bringing 400,000 jobs to the state. He’s pro-life and a fiscal conservative. He over-hugs but has kept out of the mud pit. He wins in every matchup with Clinton, while Trump and Cruz lose by double digits.
Therefore, he has to go. National Review’s Jeremy Carl writes: “It is long past time to throw Kasich’s campaign into the ash heap of history.” Sen. Lindsey Graham took a more reasonable approach, objecting that Kasich is an insider in an outsider year. Graham, who once quipped that “If you killed Ted Cruz in the Senate and the trial was in the Senate, nobody could convict you,” recently endorsed him for the nomination.
On “The Daily Show” last week, he struggled to explain his sudden change of heart: “I don’t dislike Ted. Ted and I have a lot of differences. He’s my 15th choice. What can I say? He’s not completely crazy.”