With just 82 days remaining until the Republican Convention, Ted Cruz and John Kasich have publicly discussed their plan to launch a coordinated opposition effort to Donald Trump in upcoming state primaries. The idea is to consolidate Cruz and Kasich supporters behind the most competitive alternative to Trump in each of the remaining states, rather than splitting the anti-Trump vote between the two candidates. In states that allocate delegates using a winner-take-all method, and where Donald Trump might receive less than 50% of the vote, Kasich and Cruz would hope to deny him any delegates by rallying a majority behind a single candidate.
The New York Times published a Room For Debate segment today debating the feasibility of the plan. While the debaters do speculate over possible voter reactions, they do not address the narrow set of delegate allocation rules necessary to make this plan successful. A “united” front against Trump would only meaningfully deny him delegates in states that allocate delegates in a winner-take-all manner, and where Trump earns less than a majority. In the five states that voted on Tuesday, combining Kasich-Cruz voters behind a single candidate would have been entirely irrelevant, as Trump earned overwhelming majorities in all five states.
In the remaining states, only Indiana, Nebraska, California, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota use winner-take-all delegate allocation. Among those, consolidating California’s 172 delegates behind a single candidate would provide the most meaningful chance to halt Trump’s nomination before the convention. Even then, a Cruz-Kasich alliance would only prevail if Trump fell short of a majority in the state. Recent polls have Trump at only 45.7% approval in California for now, but he is climbing steadily.
Of course, whether feasible or not, the entire plan is premised on Cruz and Kasich voters casting their votes for a candidate they may not truly believe in or support. In states where Cruz is dominant, Kasich supporters would be expected to vote for him over their favorite candidate, and vice versa in states where Kasich is stronger. Asking voters to participate in this kind of strategic calculus robs many Republican voters of real choice in their primary election. Everyone deserves the right to have their sincerest choices heard and reflected in the ballot box.
There is a way to give more power to a majority of like-minded voters without asking them to vote strategically. If Republicans used ranked choice voting, voters could rank their favorite candidate first without worrying about their vote actually helping their least favorite candidate. Kasich and Cruz voters could maintain the right to vote their conscience at the polls while still making their opposition to Donald Trump meaningfully heard.
Image Source: Michael Vandon